Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Wrapper (Bogolanfini)

19th–20th century
Bamana peoples
Cotton, dye
H. 37 x W. 57 11/16 in. (94 x 146.5 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
The word bogolanfini literally translates into mud-cloth (bogolan=something made by using mud; fini=cloth). In this Malian tradition central to Bamana culture, men weave the cotton cloth strips that are sewn together, thus producing the canvas that women decorate through a complex resist process using plant extracts and mud. In addition to their powerful graphic qualities, the numerous designs and patterns painted on the cloths denote symbolic significance. Young women acquire the knowledge and understanding of this visual language from their mothers through a long-term apprenticeship. The motifs are usually abstract or semi-abstract representations of everyday objects. Used in association with one another, they can give expression to a proverb or a song, articulate a message, or represent an historical event.
Women's wrappers were worn during important transitional periods: prior to the consummation of marriage or immediately following childbirth. Divided into five sections - four thin bands along the edges frame a larger central field - this wrapper is an early example of bogolanfini. The thin band adorned with little polka-dots marks the upper-part of the wrapper which is often hidden when worn. These little dots (a motif called tigafaranin=little peanut shell) symbolize the beaded belt baya that young Bamana women wear around their waist, which is identified with seduction and fertility.
Since 1970, an immense revitalization of this textile tradition has both expanded its consumption in Malian popular culture and led to its adaptation by international fashion designers.
[Robert L. Stolper Galleries, New York and Los Angeles, until 1960]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1960, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1978

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