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Bogolanfini Woman's Wrapper (Mali)

This is a Bogolanfini woman's wrapper. It is dated mid-20th century and we acquired it in 2000. Its medium is cotton and its technique is hand-loomed plain weave, patterned with hand drawn mud dyeing (mud cloth). It is a part of the Textiles department.

This Keith Haring-like design, which almost seems to vibrate, is made by a deliberate process that belies the ostensible spontaneity and vitality of its motif. The white designs are actually reserved in the undyed cotton, while a mud dye is painted on to cover the background surface.
Iron-rich mud is collected from the deepest parts of streams and ponds, and fermented for a year, until it becomes black. The hand-woven cotton cloth is soaked in a solution made from the leaves of certain trees, which dyes the cloth bright yellow and also serves as a mordant that allows tannins in the mud to bind to the cotton. After the pattern is outlined with a stick or metal tool by a female artist, the entire background is carefully covered with a thick layer of mud. The meticulous application of mud is repeated at least twice to achieve a rich, dark color. Finally, the reserved outlined patterns of the design are painted with a bleaching agent to remove the yellow dye and make the fabric white again.
This wrapper combines the airplane design, a symbol of modernity, with the lizard’s head, derived from a type of lizard used for medicinal purposes. The spotted upper border, which would not be seen when the wrapper is worn, refers to a string of white beads worn around the waist by young women—a potent symbol of femininity and fertility. A wrapper like this one would be worn for significant events in a woman’s life: excision, marriage, the birth of her children, and burial.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Magic Mud.

It is credited Museum purchase from The Grodzins Fund for Textile Acquisition.

Our curators have highlighted 7 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Textile, Turbo
  • 100% poly-silk warp and 100% acetate ribbon weft.
  • Gift of Hechizoo and Cristina Grajales Gallery, New York.
  • 2011-57-2
  • Mask
  • wood.
  • Gift of Bernard Richter.
  • 1965-55-30

Its dimensions are

H x W: 160.7 × 109.2 cm (63 1/4 × 43 in.)

Cite this object as

Bogolanfini Woman's Wrapper (Mali); cotton; H x W: 160.7 × 109.2 cm (63 1/4 × 43 in.); Museum purchase from The Grodzins Fund for Textile Acquisition; 2000-22-2

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition David Adjaye Selects: Works from the Permanent Collection.

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Bogolanfini Woman's Wrapper (Mali) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=29 January 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>