Expat Living, Mali
Comments 2

on the colors of bazin

bazin Mali Bamako red dye fabric kids boys

Bazin, in all its sartorial glory: billowing swaths of starchy, stiff fabric, to make any regular person seem instantly regal (and, in the hot season, suspiciously insulated). Bazin is an Instant-Royalty sort of trick that nudges the back of your mind with thoughts like “Where’s he going?” “Who could she be?” and “What a handsome couple they make!”


I hadn’t been to a bazin atelier previously, though I’d seen the flags of fabric clipped to clotheslines and flapping in the breeze from afar. A friend asked me to take a few family photos at just such a spot; It was a brilliant idea, and played beautifully in photographs. Here are a a few, mostly from the “B-roll.”


Bazin is a Malian specialty, and ateliers pop up throughout the city and on its edges, inside markets, in back alleys, and in cramped residential neighborhoods. The women who dye work hard, bent at the waist over buckets of dark liquid, creating something akin to the most impressive tie-dye job you’ve ever seen, yielding a dignified stretch of fabric with haute couture potential. Here’s a bit more on bazin and its economic impact.



Once the fabric is dyed, it’s draped over walls or attached to clotheslines to dry in the sun, and the depth and intensity of the colors astounds. We managed to arrive one weekday morning just as the first pieces were going up: first reds, oranges, yellows …



and then deep and aquatic blues …


enough color to make your head spin, and bring out the best in your family portrait.


 wishing you a colorful start to the new year !

PS: here’s a video of clips from a once-forthcoming documentary on bazin in Mali.


  1. verymary says

    We have this stuff, too! It’s so so hot. My housekeeper was appalled when I washed some to get the starch out … apparently applying the starch takes a ton of time and keeping it starched is a big deal.

    Dumb American! But I like it much better un-starched!



    • haha well i, for one, appreciate your initiative! i don’t think i’m made of sturdy enough stock to wear bazin at certain (hottest) moments of the year …


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