The real intent of the trip to Mali was to learn more about bogolanfini – the traditional cloth dyed with mud. We didn’t see every possible maker of bogolanfini, but we sure did take in a lot. And experienced some other wonderful textiles, cloth, fibers and mud.
I tell a lot of the story with the pictures. What I don’t tell with the pictures is how much fabric the group wound up bringing home with us. Between the finished bogolanfinis, the plain woven cottons, the splendid African prints and the lovely batiks….
The bogolanfini process as I observed it is not quite what I’ve read about. Actually making a piece of bogolanfini was magical – the bonding of color that was almost instantaneous on the tannin dyed cotton. Wow! My modified method takes forever….. and I had understood that the Mali method took time, too. Apparently the time is not in the bonding but in the actual painting on of the mud. Of course, everyone does everything differently and we only talked with and observed a small sampling of bogolan artists….
The overall trick seems to be in having a very iron rich mud and a dye that is high in tannin.
The artistry now is in how they use over-dyes and bleachings to create colors that are not normally associated with bogolanfini. Quite spectacular!
I’m on a hunt now to find anything similar to the dyes/tannins here in the US. Looking suspiciously at the walnut juice on my shelf…