Textiles in Mali

by Rachel Hoffman
Formerly University of California, Los Angeles

Blankets dry in the sun on the bank of the Niger River, Mali. Photo by Rachel Hoffman.

 

North of Bamako, at Mopti along a fortified bank of the Bani River—a tributary of the Niger—canoes dock and unload goods while clothing and blankets dry in the sun. A strip-woven blanket of boloti is spread in the foreground. Made of machined threads, it nonetheless declares its ties to local traditions; the checkerboard pattern has existed for centuries as a popular Sahelian motif, and the colors—red, yellow, and blue—recall natural dyes. For some weavers, survival has come to depend on their willingness to adapt to changing ecological and economic conditions. There is little question that with expanding use of boloti, the spinner’s and dyer’s arts may be threatened. The weaver, however, because he no longer necessarily depends on local fibers, will continue to flourish.