Patterns inspiration and meaning

Patterns inspiration and meaning

For the first collection of Teyla we had 2 main inspiration coming from west Africa. One was the Bogolan and the other was african print fabrics. Let's learn more about them.

About Bogolan

Bogolan is a traditional dyeing technique from West Africa.
In Bambara, which is a one the languages spoken in Mali, it literally means « made from mud ».

The real origin of the Bogolan is unknown, according to a legend, this discovery was fortuitous. A woman wearing a fabric dyed with « n'galama » would have accidentally stained it with mud from the river. When she tried to clean it, she noticed that the mud had dyed the fabric and the stains had become indelible.

The fabric used is woven cotton. The cotton is dyed by being dipped in a decoction of tree leaves (n'galama and n'tjankara) containing a high concentration of tannin.

The dyeing of the fabric is the result of a chemical reaction during the application of the mud on the textile support. All the colored shades are obtained from mineral and vegetable materials.

Once the fabric is dyed, the artist then applies the drawings: motifs of rural or urban African life, nature, as well as innumerable ideograms and geometric shapes. These scenes of everyday African life, these ideograms are most often made freehand with sticks, feathers, spatulas, brushes, etc.
It is a typically manual art, using natural products.

Originally each outfit, by its patterns and colors, was dedicated to a particular use. Each reproduced sign had a precise symbolic meaning.
Bogolan was made to be use only by few groups of the society like hunters, warriors or healers.  
Nowadays, it’s not longer the case.

According to tradition, the Bogolan wrapped around the body was used as a shield to prevent external agression.

If you are fluent in french, you can learn more about the Bogolan by watching the following video in 2 parts: part 1 and part 2.


About African print fabrics

The African print fabric is a traditional feminine clothing. Woman carries it wrapped around her, without a closing system. It attaches the right side to the left side. It covers her body from navel to ankles.

The traditional African print fabric is usually composed of seven strips of cotton fabric sewn together. (taafe in Bamanan).
The composition of the fabric is divided into five parts.

- The right border, sokonon bolo (so: the house, konon: inside / inside, bolo: hand / limit) is hidden when wearing the fabric.
- The left border, kenema (outside) bolo, is visible.
- The upper border, finished siri (attach) bolo (or finitayoro), allows to tie the fabric.
- The lower border, duguma bolo or senkorola (duguma: earth / soil, sen: the foot, korola, near) decor the bottom of the fabric.
- The central panel, finin ba (ba: grand / mother, finin: fabrics, fabrics), gives the theme to the whole composition.

Each sign drawn on the fabric has its own symbolic meaning. Juxtaposed with other signs and according to their position in the general composition, the drawings, loaded with messages, offer the narrative of real and mythical events. The signs then become writing for those who know how to decrypt them. The interpretation given to the various elements adorning the textile reveal the meaning of the fabric.

The stories reproduced on the fabric protect the woman who wears it. She has several, worn according to their meanings at particular times, of her life as wife or mother.


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