Bògòlanfini is a skill practiced specifically to the country of Mali. It is the dying of hand made Malian clothing and fabrics. The dyes are made from mud which is rich in iron to create black colors and plants that create a range of colors.
Bògòlanfini represents expressive culture for the people of Mali. The patterns dyed on the cloth communicate many tribal stories and make reference to animals, historical events, religion, and mythologies of the tribe. The cloth is majorly dyed by females who are fluent in this iconographic language.
The meaning of the symbols can differentiate between regions, tribes and where the cloth was created but there are some common understandings of what Bògòlanfini is and what it represents. Women are wrapped in a traditional piece of Bògòlanfini once they are initiated into adulthood. It is believed that the patterns within the cloth are imbued with Nyama, which is a vital life force, energy or strength. Male hunters wear Bògòlanfini, whom are also granted with Nyama to protect them during their hunts. The hunter’s mud-cloth is dyed a rusted color to camouflage them as well as represent blood for their hunted animals. Black backgrounds with white symbols are common color combinations that are used for storytelling. Other common representations depicted in mud-cloth are major events such as the birth, marriage or death of someone or even an individuals social status, or occupation.
The Malian fight for independence around the 1970s resulted in many cultural traditions, like Bògòlanfini, to diminish. Near a decade later Bògòlanfini was rediscovered. The mud-cloth was being mass produced solely by machines and was no longer sacred and traditional. Malian fashion designer Chris Seydou created clothing from Bògòlanfini inspirations. Bògòlanfini became a tourists product and made it’s way to the United States for the consumer. There are still villages in Mali where Bògòlanfini is traditionally practiced, but most of the symbols are painted with stencils.
Malian people would live comfortably without Bògòlanfini, but their culture would not be the same. From my observation, many of the steps involved in the mud-cloth process require equal participation of both man and woman, and that would be lost without Bògòlanfini. They are able to communicate and tell stories to their children through this art. The reason they will live comfortably is because it does not effect their survival. I think Malians would live fine but Bògòlanfini is good for their well being and cultural substance.