By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

The blacksmith Sedu Traore working with his bellows, Bamana peoples, Mali. Photo by Patrick McNaughton. 

Items that require extensive expertise are made by part- or full-time specialists. Among these specialists are blacksmiths, who forge blades for hoes and knives, leather workers, who make sandals and horse trappings, and embroiderers, who decorate clothing. In many parts of Africa, these specialties have long been the prerogative of members of specific families, so that one is born into one's profession, learning through apprenticeship to relatives. Here the Bamana blacksmith Sedu Traore is pumping the bellows of his forge, as he builds the heat of his fire. The tuyere that leads the air into the forge from the bellows is just below his right foot.