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African Mud-dying with Aboubakar Fofana

African Mud-dying with Aboubakar Fofana

I first heard of Aboubakar Fofana about ten years ago when I lived in Seattle. My friend, knowing how much I loved indigo, showed me an article in Home Design magazine. A striking man from Mali, he was featured with his signature indigo-dyed pieces. She said to me, "Someday you will go to Africa and meet him"! Well, I did go to Africa, but independently of taking a workshop with him. Since then, I followed him occasionally. When I heard about his three-day workshop in Oakland, California at A Verb for Keeping Warm I signed up immediately; a workshop with Aboubakar Fofana may be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I was accepted to the class - yes! 

Bogolanfini is the name given to this traditional practise from Mali. What was so special about working with this mud from Mali, was that it is sourced from the Niger River in April and May when the river is lowest. Aboubakar discovered a particular region of the river and travels once a year to collect it. Workers dive for the mud and bring it up in pails. The river has crocodiles, so it is dangerous work. Aboubakar collects enough mud for one year's supply (and a little extra) for his work.

The 'master' drawing a catfish, that has special symbolism in his culture.

Samples of organic handspun and woven cotton from Mali. Mordanted fabric with progressive layers of Malian mud. 

N'galman (Anogeissus leiopcarpusleaves from Mali. The fabric is first prepared with a mordant, so the mud will adhere to it. The leaves are boiled to produce a strong mordant.

Away we go...busy painting and dying. 

Mud-dyed samples drying.

More samples drying. Love the wooden drying racks!


Student's work. Gorgeous!


Drying in the hot California sun. 

The 'master' and I with a photo of my work. 


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1 comment

  • Very nice. Iou can share this knowledge with youngstars. Not aware of these skills. We have lot of natural resources. I would like to learn this. How and where. Are you coming to india. I am happy to host you

    Mallamma Yalawar

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