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The craft in Mali

 The craft industry in Mali 
In Mali the craft industry varies from an ethnic group to another. So we have decided to show you the work made by the different ethnic group before showing the modern realizations.
You could admire at any time the work of certain ethnic groups in the museum ethnologic collections. Unfortunately all the ethnic groups are not represented. However we hope you will appreciate this travel across the Malian culture.

 The Touareg craft industry 
Unlike what we could think, the Art to the Touareg is quite different from that of the Arab. It is enough to remark the cross of the pommel of their saddle or that constitutes the hilt of their sabres and the shape of their shield to know this difference. But it will also be wrong to think that of the cross used by the Touareg in their Art is due to a somehow influence of Christianity. It should be preferable to give an artistic characteristic to this cross, instead of religious or historical characteristic, to consider it a simple object of ornament.
To the Touareg craftsmen occupy an insignificant place. Every fraction had one or several “malem” (blacksmiths), which do every kind of work, the wood and the leather. They play the role of musicians or sometimes magicians. Generally these blacksmiths are half-castes issued from the relations of the noble masters with their slave women “Bellah or Daga”. They constitute a different social class, but they are not considered nobles, for to the Touareg, nobility is acquired by birth. All the same we can meet craftsmen by profession in the Ksour where they live either isolate or in small groups. These craftsmen, weavers, potters, tailors etc… are blacks with an origin difficult to be précised. Some of them continue to bear the antique leather cloths. But they may be as well white race as the “Inadan” as black race such as the “Ibarogan” of the south, craftsmen are considered to belong to an inferior social stratum and keep away from the nobles. This concern a kind of discrimination based not on the colour of the skin, or on profession, but on the dangerous power of witchcrafts they are supposed to obtain because of their relations with the Evil Ones. In fact, it is to be afraid that the contact with these bonesetters and magicians become prejudicial to the nobles; hence the consequence is that to certain nomadic tribes, a noble woman married with a blacksmith is banished by the society

 The Maure craft industry 
The craft industry is fewer developed to the Maure. They have just a caste craftsman, the maalem (blacksmiths) that made objects with iron, copper and precious metals: gold and silver. They do not made by themselves their raw materials as the Bambara blacksmiths; they buy the iron and copper with the other sedentary groups. They work also with wood. As the Maure do not have the caste of shoemaker, it is the wives of the blacksmiths who make this work. At least they are very skilful in the work of leather. So they make pillows, travel bags, scraps, fans etc. The Maure do not have weavers, or tailors, or dyers. They dress with imported cloths and it is their women who sew their cloths. Slave women do the basket making. They made so baskets, fans etc. And so craft industry is nearly present to the Maure.
 The Fulani craft industry 
The noble Fulani do not practice any craft. The industries of every kind are the monopoly of a particular caste “Wailoube” and “Nieniebe” (blacksmiths and jewellers), “Loube” (woodworkers), “Garankobe” and “Sokebe” (Shoemakers and harness makers) etc. All the same their women make “letié” (mats), “n’bedou” and “niorgo” (fans and straw trays as lid for milk and foods calabashes) and “sorombia” (decorated leather pillows) made for the exclusive use of housekeeping and not for sale.
In the contrary, they don’t make baskets. They buy their baskets with their neighbouring ethnic groups. The young make by themselves their straw hats while looking after bestials in the pastures. They do not make them for sale but for their own use or that of their family members.

 The Bambara craft industry 
They are mostly practiced by special castes: blacksmiths (Noumou) and woodcarvers (Koulé) for the manufacture of iron and every kind of metals, sculptures and pottery, this last manufactured especially by women, and shoemakers (Garanké) for the works with leather. Both men and women do the basket making. Their place is very important in the building of huts and the furniture such we are used to see. The weaving is not the monopoly of a particular caste. Generally, slaves do this.
All the women but not the men can do the dyeing made in majority by caste women. In this respect, it should be better to point out that the fundamental colours used by Bambara are: the black, the red and the white. According to them, the black colour can be identified with the raining season when the deep clouds become rains, the red characterizes the dry season, during which grasses are reddish; whereas the white, “the colour of faro” unites the first two colours because of its brightness.

 The Malinké craft industry 
Malinké are usually very clever with their hands. The young Malinké likes doing odd jobs. More often, at 9 or 10 years old, he begins to make curious small boats with straw, weave fans, and many small objects with the loam or pieces of iron.
But it is the caste people who have the monopoly of some iron, wood, leather, pottery crafts etc. therefore everyone can weave mats, hens baskets, hives, straw hats, make beds, benches, straw stools, raffia etc. All the women can also make the shelling, carding, spinning of the cotton and they can make soaps and “Shea butter”.

 The Dogon craft industry 
Strictly speaking it doesn’t exist in the Dogon area caste craftsmen. They are not especially blacksmiths, shoemakers, and weavers by profession. Everyone can make occasionally each of these works during the dry season. They prove their artistic taste issued from the making of their masks, which touch through their originality and expression. They prove to be expert and careful craftsmen in the making of their gold, silver or leather watermarked jewels such as the walking stick handles, bracelets, rings etc, or in melt figurines of wax polish; and representing totemic animals and family emblems. Not especially women as in the Niger valley, but both men and women, without any caste precision, can make pottery precision. All the same, the weaving or strip or cotton fabrics are the monopoly of no particular cast. It is reserved to the men, and it is the work of every family to weave. Besides, some “Higon” weave by themselves the cotton strip meant to dress them. The Dogon weave coloured or plain cotton cloths. They dye by themselves the hanks spun by women or the fabrics after their manufacturing. They weave also “Kassa” of white woollen having black drawings with varied designs in the middle that serve to dress preferably Fulani shepherds. Finally, they make too fine curtains (draps) with black drawings on a red or blue background used as hangings. The old men occupied themselves with many small works by talking sheltered from the public: making of baskets, fans, straw hats, etc. They tan also the skins and after making them suppler and coloured, they make of them all the small objects that constitute the exclusive industry of the Garanké (caste of Shoemakers) in the other regions of Mali.
 The Senoufo craft industry 
The Senoufo people practice two categories of industry: everyone without any distinction can do the first; and the second is reserved to the caste people. The first category includes the basket making, saponification, oil works, spinning and cotton weaving, dyeing, tobacco industry, making of fermented drinks.
In the second category, there is the iron, wood and leather works which especially blacksmiths make. We will notice that unlike the other areas, the leather is part of the raw materials here. Maybe this industry is not well developed to the Senoufo’s that is why it seems useless to be the monopoly of a particular caste. In the contrary the cooper industry, very developed, is reserved to a particular caste called “Lhoro” which does not belong originally to the Senoufo group.

 The Sonraï craft industry 
In some regions everyone can practice the work of his choice. It occurs that some families direct their children towards different works. Therefore, in other areas of the Songhoï country, this industry remains the monopoly of specialized castes as the blacksmiths, shoemakers, weavers, etc. We can notice there the countries influences, for originally such a social division did not exist. Everyone was free to choose the work he likes either by vocation or by necessity. The Kalan women make very nice imitation gold jewellery, with yellow coloured fine straw, and nice bracelets of pearl very appreciated in the south countries. These women and the caste women make pottery, baskets, and some simple objects with embroidered leather.
 The Sarakollé craft industry 
The main craft industries are the monopoly of some specialized castes.
1st the metallurgical industry: they are the Tago (blacksmiths) who practice the industries of iron, copper and precious metals such as gold and silver, and the wood industry contrary to the other groups. They make “yidou” (hatchets), tongou (hoes), fanti (small hoes) labour (knife), seoutou (adzes), every kind of jewellery, bâfou (doors), khirkou (saddle bow), kharé (handles) etc. their tools are mainly foulladou (hummer), tané (envil), khampa (long nippers), khampangourmo (pincers), and khassadigme, tountou (bellows), saouta (adze), yide (hatchet) etc.
2nd Leather industry: is it practiced by the special caste of shoemakers (Garanko). They are also specialized in the skin tanning. They make moukhou (Turkish slippers), tiorongué (soft boots), tepou (sandals), khirkhé n’doroke (skin of saddles), kharbin nkatiou (scraps), sefayou (amulets cover) etc. Their main tools are: bounné (awl), walakha (the plate on which skins are prepared), nakhade (wood polishing brush), labo (knife) etc.
3rd Pottery industry: It is practiced with hands by the Taga yakharou (wives of blacksmiths). All the designs on the objects are made by their fingers and nails. They make so lallé (water pots), goumbou lemmou (gargoulettes), begne (pierced vases for steaming millet flour), and several small objects used by spinners and dyers.
4th Dyeing industry: it can be practiced by every category of women. We can say that there is no sarakollé family without a small dyeing industry. All the dyeing is made from indigo with which we can get bakha khoulé (blueness of the sky), or bakha biné (navy blue).

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