Building on its decade of experience in post-conflict Afghanistan, Rubia is empowering artisans in Mali through a combination of poverty alleviation and cultural heritage preservation. Political instability has been threatening traditional livelihoods and exacerbating poverty and malnutrition in Segou the UNESCO Cultural Heritage city of Djenne. Known for the sacred “great mosque” with its signature trio of minarets, Djenne had long been a popular tourist destination —until 2013 when warnings of kidnapping and terrorism scared foreigners away. The economic crisis, referred to as “la crise” hit Djenne hard. Bogolan (mudcloth) artisans who had sold their textiles to tourists are now struggling to survive.
Bogolanfini, or bogolan, is a traditional textile of the Bambara (Bamanan) people. Malian women first drew geometric motifs with mud to communicate tribal narratives, and passed the symbolic language down from generation to generation of women. Each of the symbols has a meaning and each cloth tells a story. Bogolan has become a symbol of Malian cultural identity.
Rubia is offering women and young artists from Tanti (Aunty) Bogolan Women’s Association and Ndomo Workshop the opportunity to earn income from sales of their stunning bogolan in the United States.