Bògòlan, also known as bokolanfini, is a type of decorated cloth made by the Bamana peoples of Mali, in Western Africa. Traditional bògòlan is made by women artisans who spin and weave locally grown cotton to make long strips of cloth that are about five inches wide, and then sew the strips together into large panels. These panels are then dyed with local iron-rich mud deposits to create geometric motifs. Bògòlan cloths are distinctive in using a negative technique, where the designs appear in white and the background is dark brown to nearly black. Traditionally the geometric motifs on the cloths likely referred to historical events, mythological characters, or proverbs, but today much of the meaning of these motifs have been lost as non-specialists create non-traditional combinations of motifs on cloth made for the tourist trade.
The most famous use of bògòlan mud cloth is in coming-of-age rituals for adolescent Bamana girls. In the past, these cloths were used to dress girls after excision, a controversial practice also known as female circumcision. However, while excision practices have diminished, the use of bògòlan has continued to be used to symbolize coming-of-age ceremonies. Bògòlan is also used for men’s hunting clothes, and on these types of bògòlan, the white motifs are often dyed a deep yellow so that the cloth serves as camouflage, helping the men blend into the leaves.
For more information, you may contact the researcher(s) noted in the title of this exhibit entry, or Dr. Billie Follensbee, the professor of the course, at BillieFollensbee@MissouriState.edu