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Bogolan (Mud Cloth) map of West Africa in black and white
West African countries in bogolan print by Cultures of West Africa

The iconic mud cloth of Mali, West Africa may be the perfect, pictorial metaphor to capture the rich cultural heritage of this unique region of the world. Individual panels of distinctive, symbolic patterns are woven together to create a whole. And so it goes that the fabric of West Africa — a vibrant and complex ethnic mosaic draped from Senegal to Niger — is bound together, interwoven, by common cultural threads.

Though rituals, customs, art forms, oral traditions and the multitude of Niger-Congo tongues that express them are as diversified as the landscape itself — from semi-arid grasslands, savannas, and steppes to equatorial forests — these shared aesthetic, societal fibers (i.e. music, dress) are unique to this westernmost region of Africa, only exceptionally threading down to groups outside of this geographic area.

Our endeavor — to gather the assorted histories, folktales, myths, traditions, and creative expressions of peoples spreading through these countries — also lends itself well to the imagery of weaving, where thread by thread, band by band, the textured, cultural fabric of West Africa unfolds.