Bogolan – the patterns

1 april 2014

Last Sunday I attended the workshop Bogolan from Rosalie van Deursen at the Vrije Academie in Amsterdam. I learned some interesting things about Mali and the history of Bogolan. For example, Rosalie told us the story of the genesis of Bogolan. Apparantly, a hunter with traditional yellow clothing colored with n’galama, had a deer with mud covered legs on his shoulders and this mud colored his cloths with permanent stains caused by the reaction between the mud and the n’galama cloth.

Bogolan is strongly connected to the social life in Mali. The symbolic imagery painted on clothing tells something about the situation of the owner: someone is married or marriageable, widower, pregnant or just became a father. Some examples of the traditional patterns and their meaning:

Tourousina: refers to jealousy between co-wives

N’gale: spinning tool

A wrapper or skirt for young women about to undergo Fourra, the Bamana coming of age ceremony for women.

Basic symbols:

– a straight line                                -> the right path in life
– two parallel lines                         -> don’t aim on two horses, you can’t follow two lines in life
– one zig-zag line                             -> bad conscience
– one line with one zig-zag line    -> setting boundaries
– a cross                                             -> carrefour roads = trade = money = luck=prosperity

– fish bone                                        -> the man is the stable factor in the family
Of course this is only a small selection of symbols that are used for Bogolan painting. Every tribe has traditionally it’s own symbols and nowadays a lot of symbols are adapted to modern style Bogolans. In my next blog I will show you some of these contemporary art works.

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