Bogolan is a word in Bambara (language from Mali, West Africa) composed by a common name “bogo” meaning clay, mud and a suffix “lan” indicating the instrument or what achieves a result. Therefore, Bogolan means literally “the result that gives the clay” (on the fabric). It is a technique that consists of applying clay on a dyed fabric.
Unlike indigo dyeing that is largely widespread throughout West Africa, bogolan is an ancestral technique of the people of the group Mandé (Bambara, Malinké, Senufo and Dogon ethnic groups). Originally, women made bogolan clothing, including wedding trousseau and loincloths, to be marketed. Hunters and shepherds also dyed, for their personal use, hunting and parrying outfits.
Today, bogolan is highly requested locally by tourists and export markets. Making bogolan can be a profitable full time job for youth in Africa or elsewhere. Here’s how it’s made.
1. The fabric is dyed using natural plant materials. You can get yellow, blue, green, red, etc., depending on the plant you use.
2. The dyed fabric is marked with with soft clay using a stencil or freely drawn according to the forms you desire. A chemical reaction takes place between the iron contained in clay and tannin of the plant. This reaction gives a black color that holds on the fabric.
3. The dried mud is removed and the cloth is washed in a marsh or bucket of water.
Learn more about creating bogolan in this leaflet!