Title

The Essence of Bogolanfini: Thinking about Ethical design with African Inspiration

Degree Program

Undergraduate

Major

Graphic Design

Abstract

Bogolanfini are intricately designed textiles created by Bamana women in Mali. The cloths are created through a natural process, producing rich designs and motifs that address stories, narratives, female-specific ideas or relate to historical events. Each textile is hand made for a particular individual and given to her as she enters adulthood, an event marked by puberty and clitoridectomy. During this time, the cloth is used to absorb blood from the operation, a process transferring the woman’s spirit into the bogolanfini. As she progresses through life, the utility of her bogolanfini extends to absorbing her life-blood during menstruation, first intercourse and birth. The life-cycle process to which a bogolanfini is exposed produces an extremely sacred and personal object, holding deep spiritual potential for the owner. Despite the intimate connection between a woman and her cloth, bogolanfini has become a mass-produced and mass-consumed global commodity. Today, because of popular appeal, economic incentive and its malleable aesthetic, bogolanfini motifs have changed along with its global consumption, leading international designers to decontextualized its meanings and use.

This paper discusses how bogolanfini became a generalized symbol of Africa, reducing the intricate motifs and intimate meanings down to simplified patterns used to sell clothes and home-goods within Western contexts. With the global use and consumption of bogolanfini, it has become a means to visualize the trendy interest in“ethnic” Africa. With this paper and as a graphic designer, I present my design inspired by bogolanfini, demonstrating a more appropriate and ethical way to market and represent African culture as a Western-based designer. I show that through thorough research, one can avoid notions of “otherness” and create a consumer product based on foreign influence that highlights and teaches about the beauty and diversity of Bamana culture.

Start Date

24-2-2017 1:30 PM

End Date

24-2-2017 2:50 PM

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Feb 24th, 1:30 PM Feb 24th, 2:50 PM

The Essence of Bogolanfini: Thinking about Ethical design with African Inspiration

Bogolanfini are intricately designed textiles created by Bamana women in Mali. The cloths are created through a natural process, producing rich designs and motifs that address stories, narratives, female-specific ideas or relate to historical events. Each textile is hand made for a particular individual and given to her as she enters adulthood, an event marked by puberty and clitoridectomy. During this time, the cloth is used to absorb blood from the operation, a process transferring the woman’s spirit into the bogolanfini. As she progresses through life, the utility of her bogolanfini extends to absorbing her life-blood during menstruation, first intercourse and birth. The life-cycle process to which a bogolanfini is exposed produces an extremely sacred and personal object, holding deep spiritual potential for the owner. Despite the intimate connection between a woman and her cloth, bogolanfini has become a mass-produced and mass-consumed global commodity. Today, because of popular appeal, economic incentive and its malleable aesthetic, bogolanfini motifs have changed along with its global consumption, leading international designers to decontextualized its meanings and use.

This paper discusses how bogolanfini became a generalized symbol of Africa, reducing the intricate motifs and intimate meanings down to simplified patterns used to sell clothes and home-goods within Western contexts. With the global use and consumption of bogolanfini, it has become a means to visualize the trendy interest in“ethnic” Africa. With this paper and as a graphic designer, I present my design inspired by bogolanfini, demonstrating a more appropriate and ethical way to market and represent African culture as a Western-based designer. I show that through thorough research, one can avoid notions of “otherness” and create a consumer product based on foreign influence that highlights and teaches about the beauty and diversity of Bamana culture.