Bògòlanfini or bogolan (“mud cloth“) is a handmade Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud. It has an important place in traditional Malian culture and has, more recently, become a symbol of Malian cultural identity.
In traditional bògòlanfini production, men weave the cloth and women dye it. On narrow looms, strips of cotton fabric about 15 centimetres wide are woven and stitched into cloths.
The dyeing begins with a step invisible in the finished product: The cloth is soaked in a dye bath made from mashed and boiled, or soaked, leaves of the n’gallama tree (Anogeissus leiocarpus). Now yellow, the cloth is sun-dried and then painted with designs using a piece of metal or wood. The paint, carefully and repeatedly applied to outline the intricate motifs, is a special mud, collected from riverbeds and fermented for up to a year in a clay jar. Thanks to a chemical reaction between the mud and the dyed cloth, the brown color remains after the mud is washed off. Finally, the yellow n’gallama dye is removed from the unpainted parts of the cloth by applying soap or bleach, rendering them white.