The fabrics of traditional men and women’s dress in Senegal (boubous, loincloths and head cloths) are very brightly coloured. The cotton fabric is printed in a factory and cotton dimity in various colours is imported from Europe. But there is also a whole range of products that are dyed using white European dimity or locally-woven cotton fabric.

The traditional dye used here is indigo, a plant whose leaves are stacked, rounded into balls or into loaves and then dried. When the indigo is to be used, it is soaked in water. The resulting paste is put into an earthenware container with other ingredients for several days. A chemical reaction take place causing fermentation. Sometimes, charms and incantations are used to ensure the success of the dye bath. Fabric to be dyed is washed, then soaked, rung out and soaked again until the desired colour is obtained (the more soakings, the more intense the colour).

Today, chemical colouring is added to the vegetable indigo to make it easier to obtain the desired colour.
Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily"
Canadian Heritage Information Network

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans