Young woman's wrapper bogolanfini (mud cloth)
Late 19th Century, Mali, Africa

This is an early example of a textile known as bogolanfini (also bokolanfini), from the Bamana people of west-central Mali, Africa. In the Bamana language bogolan refers to mud and fini to cloth, thus many also identify bogolanfini by its literal translation of "mud cloth." The name is derived from the process by which the textiles are patterned. Using fermented mud from local river and pond beds, the artist paints in the background, leaving the designs in the uncovered ground. Iron and other substances in the mud color the fabric. When dry, the mud is removed by beating, rubbing and rinsing the cloth. For the Bamana people, the designs can convey meaning and tell stories. Traditionally, bogolanfini would be used for a man's sleeveless shirt or woman's wrapper that would be worn during important events and ceremonies. Beyond Mali, bogolanfini has recently inspired a variety of mediums including furnishings, clothing, and even stationery.

The Textile Museum 1991.14.1, From the collection of Paul and Virginia Clifford. Photo by Franko Khoury.

© 2000 THE TEXTILE MUSEUM

Each month we will highlight a different textile from the Museum's collection.