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Dogon textiles
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Dogon myth as presented in Marcel Griaules ìDieu díEau - Entretiens avec OgotemmÍliî (1948) describes the origin of textile making as having taken place on the third day of creation, and thus ascribes this craft a deep and unique tradition among the Dogon. However, compared to other textiles of Mali, such as those of the Marka or the Peul, Dogon textiles are not exceptional. In comparison to these textile traditions the Dogon technical vocabulary is limited, implying that textile making was adopted into Dogon culture only recently. Close similarities are visible in technical and typological aspects to the textiles of the Peul (or Fulani) pastoralists. Consequently, while ìDieu díEauî describes Dogon myth and the origin, fabrication and understanding of textiles as deeply ëinterwovení, there is very little actual evidence to support such claims.

Traditional Dogon textiles are made of cotton, which is spun by the women and woven by the men into long narrow strips on double-heddle looms. These strips are sewn together to form cloths. Special to the Dogon are additions of small tassels to the textiles. Dogon textiles are either used in their original white colour, or dyed black, brown, or most commonly, indigo blue. Indigo is extracted from a plant (Indigofera tinctoria). The Dogon term for indigo is gara or gala, a word used throughout Senegambia from Mauretania to Burkina Faso. Indigo dye is particularly closely associated with the SoninkÈ.

Dogon textiles comprise blankets or covers and personal dress items. The traditional male dress of the Dogon, as apparent in early photographs, consisted of trousers and of large shirts of varying cuts, also often a head dress. The clothing was of an entirely white, blue or brown colour and was lacking woven ornamentation. The wrapper is a fundamental part of female dress among the Dogon. It is worn together with a simple wide sleeveless shirt. In most of the Dogon settlement area the wrapper is of an indigo colour without or with only few and discrete patterns. As is known from finds in burial caves the previous population of the Bandiagara escarpment, the so-called Tellem (11th-16th century AD), did not know the cotton wrapper (Bolland 1991). Tellem women wore skirts of vegetal fibres.


Bolland, R.
1991 Tellem Textiles. Archaeological finds from burial caves in Maliís Bandiagara Cliff. With contributions by R.M. A. Bedaux and R. Boser-SarivaxÈvanis. Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam; Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden; Institut des Sciences Humaines, Bamako; MusÈe National, Bamako.
Boser-SarivaxÈvanis, R.
1975 Recherche sur líhistoire des textiles traditionnels tissÈs et teints de líAfrique occidentale. Compte rendu de la mission R. Boser et B. Gardi ‡ travers le Nigeria, le Niger, la Haute-Volta, la CÙte díIvoire, le Mali et le SÈnÈgal (octobre 1973 ‡ fÈvrier 1975). Verhandlungen der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Basel 86, 1 et 2 : 301-341.
Brett-Smith, S.
1990-1991 Empty space : the architecture of Dogon cloth. Res 19-20 : 162-177.
Engelbrecht, B. & B. Gardi (Èds.)
1989 Man does not go naked. MÈlanges offerts ‡ RenÈe Boser-SarivaxÈvanis. Basler Beitr‰ge zur Ethnologie 30. Basel, Wepf & Co.
2000 Le Boubou - cíest chic. Les boubous du Mali et díautres pays de líAfrique de líOuest. Basel, Christoph Merian Verlag.
Griaule, G.
1951 Le vÍtement dogon, confection et usage. Journal de la SociÈtÈ des Africanistes 21 : 151-162.
1948 Dieu díEau. Entretiens avec OgotemmÍli. Paris, Les Editions du ChÍne.
NíDiaye, F.
1971 Iconologie des poulies des mÈtiers ‡ tisser dogon. Objets et Monde 11 : 355-370.

Check the following links for further details

Dogon man's cap from the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, Netherlands

Dogon man's tunic (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, Netherlands). This garment is made of long narrow cotton strips sewn together and dyed with indigo.

Dogon woman's wrapper (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, Netherlands)

Folded narrow cotton band (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, Netherlands). The long cotton strips are woven by Dogon men on shaft looms. They are usually sold folded or rolled up. Formerly, rolls of cotton strips were used as currency.

Author(s): Text: Cornelia Kleinitz, abstract of B. Gardi (2004), Textiles Dogon, in R.M.A. Bedaux and J.D. van der Waals, Regards sur les Dogon du Mali. Leiden (Exhibition Catalogue)
Date created: 2003-10-16 - Date modified: 2004-03-29

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Dogon man weaving long cotton bands, Ogossogou village (4.2MB)

Woman spinning cotton

Man preparing for weaving

Man weaving cotton bands

Loom with man weaving cotton band

Double-heddle loom

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