When I introduce the art of the mud cloth I point out that for many years it was the women of the Bamana that created this art form. The men did the weaving of the cotton cloth, but the women were and still are, in most cases, responsible for the visual designs.
Also, even though the designs are abstract in style, the different patterns and shapes have distinct meanings behind them, as do the colors chosen to fill the designs. Each mud cloth tells its own story due to the combination of different shapes, patterns, and colors.
The mud cloths were originally made for the Bamana's own people, but now they are also made for and appropriated by people around the world as many different people are engaged by the bold graphic qualities of these designs.
Along with the powerpoint I use to discuss the Bogolanfini, I also use a site by the Smithsonian that allows you to build your own digital mud cloth. It breaks down the steps of the process and provides titles for patterns used so students can see how a narrative occurs on the cloth.
For this 1st grade project I had the students work with a partner, so that their painted mud cloth could be a little larger(12x18") for the hour we had to do it.
1. teams folded their paper in half and then divided it into 6 parts. we tried to keep the outside borders thinner because of the variety we saw in the Bamana cloths
2. teams work together and decide what patterns they want in each section. i also emphasized making a pattern with the patterns across the cloth
3. after drawing with pencil, students added white, then brown, then a tint or tints of brown, and finally, black tempera paint to their designs
One of our 5th grade teachers, Ms. Liggins, did a project similar to this with her 5th grade students this year and they came out fantastic!