The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Textiles in Mali

by Rachel Hoffman
Formerly University of California, Los Angeles

Two weavers in a market stall. Dogon artist, village of Ende, Mali. Photo by Rachel Hoffman.


In Mali in western Africa, textile production—the weaving and dyeing of cotton and wool—is integrally linked to history, tradition, social structure, and ecology. Woven cotton cloth dating to the 16th century has been found in caves at the Bandiagara escarpment, but historians do not know whether these indigo-dyed swatches were imported or produced locally. We do know that modern Mali is home to numerous societies whose weaving and dyeing traditions constitute an enduring foundation for individual livelihood and social continuity.