tessuti africani bogolan



African mud cloth or Bogolan is a typical dye from Western Africa. Today, it is still practiced by the people of Mali (Dogon and Bambara), Burkina Faso (Bobo and Senoufo) and the Ivory Coast (Manianka and Malinka). It is a very ancient workmanship, dating back to the twelfth century.

The word Bogolan means made of mud, the decorations are achieved by applying mud on the fabric. Traditionally, the cloth is made of cotton and woven by men while the decoration is entrusted to women. Men weave a long strip of white cloth with narrow looms, about 12 cm wide, which is then cut and sewn to obtain a sheet made up of several strips, generally seven. According to their symbolic use of numbers, three represents the male element and four represents the female element, therefore seven is a sign of completeness and maturity.

The decoration occurs through several stages. First, the fabric is immersed in a vegetable dye obtained from the leaves of the N’galama tree, which give it an ocher color and aids the fixing of the other colors. Secondly, the mud is applied, after being collected from the banks of a river and left to ferment in clay pots. Then come the washing and drying, to eliminate the excess mud while the design is rendered indelible by the chemical reaction between the mud and the decoction of leaves. Later interventions of bleaching and dying, repeated several times, give the final appearance of Bogolan.

Each African mud cloth is unique and tells a story. Each color has a specific meaning, as do the designs and their arrangement. The most traditional coloring is black with white designs, typically used for the narration of proverbs. The rust color is related to hunting and is a protection against negative energies released by dead animals. White Bogolan is generally worn by women during ceremonial events; the color white represents the light, the purity, God. Recently, other colors have been added, such as bright red, purple, yellow and orange, but the elderly dislike them because they move away from tradition. The ability to decipher the symbols is reserved for very few. They transmit a message from a proverb or a song, celebrate an event or praise the qualities and courage of a hero.

The end result is always of great aesthetic value, not only as a special material, but as products of refined craftsmanship and works of art.