Textiles in Mali

by Rachel Hoffman
Formerly University of California, Los Angeles

A Dogon woman spinning cotton thread, Mali. Photo by Rachel Hoffman.


While weaving is the exclusive domain of men, spinning is done by women. An indigenous long-fiber cotton is cultivated throughout west Africa. Ready for picking every two or three years, the cotton is seeded, then combed to align the fibers. With fingers of her left hand, the spinner pulls and twists combed cotton fibers into fine strands; with her right hand, she whirls a weighted spindle to wind the fibers—twisted into thread—onto a spool, now ready to be woven or dyed.