Textiles in Mali

by Rachel Hoffman
Formerly University of California, Los Angeles

A variety of types, styles and colors of locally woven cloth worn by two women in the village of Ende, Mali. Photo by Rachel Hoffman.


Clothing everywhere indicates current style, suggests the taste of the wearer, and often denotes social and economic status. The Yoro village woman, at left, wears factory-made cloth; her belt is woven of local cotton, but her skirt and blouse derive from imported boloti and massive machine looms operated in most industrialized capital cities throughout Africa. Factory-produced cloth is more expensive than the local hand-loomed product, so her dress expresses her relative wealth. On the right, the wife to the Yoro village chief wears an indigo-dyed, strip-woven wrap skirt. Her blouse, however, is a knit shell, purchased and further ornamented with bits of aluminum and soda bottle caps, punctured and attached as an expression of status and taste, as we might attach sequins or pearls. When she walks or dances, the ornaments jingle and announce her presence.