Woman wears blue indigo dress outside building with two trees

A Volunteer Describes the “True Mali Experience”

May. 16 | 2019

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During her time in Mali as a Common Pastures volunteer through Winrock International, Mitchelle Olumide Makanjuola had a chance to visit the indigo making cooperative in Ségou, Mali with country director Bara Kassambara.


Mitchelle describes her experience:


“Upon arrival the beautiful red clay stood out on the horizon like the entry grates to clothing heaven. My heart was racing with excitement as we got closer and closer. During the tour of the cooperative I was able to learn that the traditional art of creating designs and dying clothes began as an accident. A farmer chasing after his livestock accidently fell in the river, which had the potent clay, to collect his property. After placing the animal across his shoulder to carry it home, the ink from the river sunk into his clothes and created an immediate stain that could not be washed out. Since that fateful accident, there have been thousands upon thousands of beautiful designs and cloth items created and the indigo ink has become a precious staple of the Malian culture.”

Mali indigo making cooperative
Segou, Mali indigo making cooperative
Woman wears blue indigo dress outside building with two trees
Mitchelle models her indigo dress


That same evening, Mitchelle was treated to a local meal, which she calls “the true Mali experience”:


“After arranging chairs in a circle and positioning the appropriate amount of light in the garden of the hotel a man walked in with a beautifully tied bundle of goodies. It was the kind of bundle that you read in nursery rhymes and stories where the stock bird carries a baby all the way to his/her new home of love. The delicately arranged basket held pots of okra, stew, foutou fish, onions and chips. The food was so good with fresh flavors pouring from every mouthful. It was one of the best meal I had in Mali and I wish I could savor every bite!” Learn more about Mitchelle’s work in Mali.

Man and woman eating Malian food
Mitchelle enjoys an authentic Malian meal