Women Cloth Dyers of Mali

The Republic of Mali in Western Africa, with a population of roughly 14.5 million, is bordered by Algeria on the north, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire to the south, Niger on the east, Senegal and Mauritania to the west and Guinea on the southwest.

Internationally, Mali has established a reputation of being an exporter of high-quality fiber. However, despite being Africa's second largest cotton fiber producer (Egypt is the first), globalization and competition with players like China, the United States, Pakistan, India and Uzbekistan has made it difficult for the country to capitalize on its natural wealth both locally and internationally.

As a land-locked country, these obstacles are furthered complicated due to insecure roads, ports, and an inefficient rail system, all of which create high prices for air freight because it is the only means for delivering products.

Carving a Niche with Tradition

Mali's rich textile and leather heritage includes spinning and hand-weaving as well as dyeing, garment design, and tailoring along with embroidery.

In the early 1970's, a group of Malian women dyers re-ignited the hand-dyed cloth industry throughout West Africa with innovative designs and use of vibrant colors.

Tapping into their creative spirit and inspired by beauty and economic survival, these self-empowered African women turned traditional hand-dyed bazin, which is an imported polished cotton, into a lucrative economy.

Bamako Chic: Threads of Power, Color, and Culture

In 2010, anthropologist Maxine Downs and filmmaker Maureen Gosling teamed up to produce Bamako Chic. The film follows the daily lives of several Malian women who have provided a sustainable source of asset building for their households by taking advantage of the "world chic" trends of globalization.

Their artistry and keen entrepreneurial skills allowed these women to take full advantage of micro-programs that were introduced to the country in the mid-1980's.

By highlighting the collective and personal triumphs of Africans, this film also challenges international stereotypes of a continent that's underdeveloped, politically unstable, and plagued with health disparities and famine.

Technically, if the stringent policies of international lenders like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were to halt colonial policies that make it difficult for local industries and entrepreneurs to flourish then it is highly likely issues of poverty for many colonized countries would start to evaporate.