Hundreds of years ago, the Bamana peoples of Mali were already creating mud cloths, or bogolanfini, intricate textiles decorated with dye. The process was labor intensive and took up to two weeks. First, men weaved local cotton into strips, then stitched the strips together. Next, using solutions made from fermented leaves, bark, and mud, women dyed the cloth, then painted it with patterns. Inventive textiles were the result, fabrics that represented a wide range of symbols and beliefs. The cloths were used to make hunting tunics for the men and wraps for the women. While the designs may look familiar to a modern eye, the story of their origins has never been properly told—until now. —E.C.
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