Textiles in Mali

by Rachel Hoffman
Formerly University of California, Los Angeles

A weaver near Bamako uses imported thread to produce strips and patterns based on traditional motifs, Mali. Photo by Rachel Hoffman.

 

Natural black wool is not the only fiber that has become rare. Since the early 1970s, the latest in a series of droughts has plagued the Sahel region situated just south of the Sahara Desert and extending from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. Edible crops have been severely affected by drought, but so have the production of cotton and the number of healthy livestock—all of which depend for their survival on rainfall. There exists an increasingly urban population whose tastes lean more toward modern aesthetics; because of combined ecological factors and aesthetic preferences, weavers, who have historically relied on local cotton and wool, now look elsewhere for fibers. Just outside of Bamako, Mali's capital city, this weaver continues to produce strips and patterns based on traditional motifs, but he uses boloti, dyed and spun in Europe or Asia and then imported.