The Art of Making The Baoulé Fabric

In Côte d'Ivoire, the fabric is affectionately called "pagne Baoulé". The textile clearly finds its name and roots from the Baoulé, Akan people of Côte d’Ivoire, but is more so originating from the 16th century Ashanti Kingdom, which empire stretched from present-day countries of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. For centuries, the fabric has mostly been adorned during community gatherings, special events, traditional proceedings and festivities. For many local communities, the fabric is the main source of revenue. And the techniques are transmitted from generations to the next. In the small town of Sakiaré, it's reported that 95% of the villagers are weavers. Come travel with us, to the small town of Tuenzigbo to discover the fabric, its importance, techniques, and art making.

The "traditional" fabric is originally handmade by local artisans and weavers using a tenth century set of techniques. Everything, from producing the tools and equipment, to coloring and weaving the textile, is done by hand. First things first, the craftspersons, mostly women, use a drop-spindle tool to convert raw cotton into single threads or yarns. The yarn is then bleached to remove all impurities and dirt, and later exposed to dry under the sun.

After a few days, the same yarn is dyed with natural dyes, either mineral or vegetable based, usually from indigo leaves or other natural plants. After being soaked in the natural colorant, the yarns are left to dry under the sun once again. Before the weaving process, the weaver would set his design in mind and actualize the concept by arranging the colored threads on a two wooden stands, according to what the final fabric would like.

Once after the colored threads are handwoven into narrow warps of textiles, they are then sewn together, edge to edge, as to a form a full length fabric.The individual number of warps typically ranges between 9 or 11 depending on the expected length and width of the fabric.

We do understand and respect the historic nature of this elegant craftsmanship, but we also believe that the fabric should be celebrated and worn in our modern era, without it just being deemed and relegated to a just "traditional" standard or setting. The textile does live with our time. The techniques are ingenious and timeless. The designs are exquisite and edgy. The colors are pure and sustainable. It's a great honor and privilege for the Kente Gentlemen brand to directly work and collaborate with the artisans that provide us with the fabric. We also feel honored to contribute to the local economy, even in the smallest of ways, and add to the story, art, and beauty of said fabric.

Film / Photography: Dadi / Aristide Loua
Music: Ernesto Djédjé - Ziboté
Editing: Aristide Loua
Production / Text: Aristide Loua
 All courtesy of Kente Gentlemen L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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