Art of the Bamana Blacksmith

by Patrick McNaughton
Indiana University

The blacksmith Sedu Traore working with his bellows, Bamana peoples, Mali. Photo by Patrick McNaughton. 

The techniques that Mande smiths have developed over the centuries are well-suited to local resources and needs. Their wood-and ironworking abilities are effective, and well-trained, skillful smiths are capable of creating extremely refined objects with their adzes, knives, and hammers. Bellows work, as pictured here, can even be creative itself, because many smiths organize their bellows strokes into patterns of rhythm that are as impressive to hear as good Mande drum or balafon performances.