WRITER: HARVEY HSUING
CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 21, 2000
Exhibition of African fabric to be major spring exhibition at Museum of
IOWA CITY, IA -- "Renewing Tradition: The Revitalization of Bogolan
in Mali and Abroad," an exhibition of more than 80 African fabrics and
fashions, will be on view from Saturday, March 25 through Sunday, May 28 at
the University of Iowa Museum of Art.
The exhibition, focusing on bogolan, or African mudcloth, and its American
adaptations, will provide visitors with an opportunity to enhance their understanding
of contemporary African art, its growth and its international influence.
The museum will celebrate the opening of the exhibition with a public reception,
5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, March 24. Vicki Rovine, organizer of "Renewing
Tradition" and curator of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
at the Museum of Art, will give a gallery tour of the exhibition at 6 p.m.,
and Olabayo Olaniyi, a musician and African musician and storyteller, will
perform at 6:45 p.m.
Two of the museum's weekly Perspectives programs will be presented in conjunction
with the exhibition. At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, Rovine will give a
gallery tour of the exhibition. And at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, Malian-born
artist and author Baba Wague Diakate will present "Making Mudcloth: A
Malian Artist Speaks," including a bogolan demonstration. Both presentations,
in the Museum of Art, will be free and open to the public.
The exhibition will also be featured in the museum's 10th annual "Widen
Our World" (WOW!) program, which will bring more than 1,200 third-grade
students and their teachers from 22 area schools to the Museum of Art during
March and April.
A related collaborative exhibition will be at the Iowa Children's Museum
in the Coral Ridge Mall, Coralville, March 21-May 26. The Children's Museum
exhibit, "Playing with Mud: Mudcloth Tradition of Mali," will feature
a reproduced marketplace with textiles from Mali and numerous hands-on activities.
For further information on the Children's Museum exhibit, call (319) 625-6255.
Although the term bogolan may be unfamiliar, many Americans will find the
bogolan designs exceedingly familiar, as they have gradually entered American
markets during the last 10 years. Few people, however, are aware of the textile's
origin, role and rich history in the lives of many Malians.
The exhibition will feature bogolan paintings, garments and cloth adapted
to the tourist art market, along with photographs and labels explaining the
In its traditional rural form bogolan is woven by men and decorated by elderly
women using intricate symbolic patterns that refer to local history and mythology.
An important part of local religious practice, the cloth is believed to provide
spiritual protection when worn by men as a shirt, and by women as a wrap.
Bogolan's distinctive colors and patterns result from a uniquely Malian
dye process. The cloth is first dyed in a solution of water and mashed leaves,
then designs are painstakingly drawn onto the cloth using mud that has been
fermented in clay pots.
Today in Bamako, the capital of Mali, bogolan is made primarily by young
men who have learned the technique in art school. Their experiments with bogolan
dyes and methods create an innovative art form that reflects their contemporary
Elaborate paintings made of bogolan are sold side by side with richly decorated
articles of clothing ranging from Western-style tailored suits and women's
miniskirts to boubous, typically Malian flowing robes, also created using
bogolan processes. Bogolan has been adapted to a thriving tourist market,
developing new styles while using stencils and other technical innovations
to speed production.
Rovine hopes that the exhibition will foster an appreciation for the work
of contemporary African artists and show the cosmopolitan nature of Africa
"Our experience of African art generally hasn't entered the modern
age," she said. "We tend to see it still as highly exotic, tribal
and traditional. I'd like to provide an alternate vision to the famines, masks,
grass huts and tribal warfare that often represent Africa in the American
media and imagination."
Rovine has spent more than a year in Bamako and elsewhere in Mali, interviewing
artists, art consumers and art merchants. Her research has continued in the
United States, where bogolan designs have been widely assimilated, appearing
on a range of consumer goods including postcards, coffee cups, curtains, decorative
pillows, wrapping paper and gift bags.
"Bogolan is experiencing a renaissance," she said. "I hope
this exhibition will update our ideas of how African art has adapted to the
pressures of commerce and an increasingly globalized environment."
Rovine won grants of $20,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation and $14,000
from the National Endowment for the Arts to develop "Renewing Tradition."
After it closes at the UI Museum of Art, the exhibition will travel to the
DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago and the University of
California at Santa Barbara.
M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art, Inc. of Iowa City is the corporate sponsor
for the 1999-2000 Perspectives series at the UI Museum of Art, through the
University of Iowa Foundation.
WOW! is a collaboration among the Museum of Art, the Iowa City Community
School District, Mercantile Bank, Knutson Construction Services and Cedar
River Paper Company. Participating students will come from Iowa City elementary
schools, as well as Regina Elementary, Willowind School, Lakeview Elementary
in Solon, Herbert Hoover Elementary in West Branch and Cedar Rapid's Johnson
School of the Arts.
The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is
open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots
across from the museum on Riverside Drive and just north of the museum.
For information on the UI Museum of Art, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~artmus
on the World Wide Web. Information is available on other UI arts events at
(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Bogolan is pronounced BO-go-lahn. Baba Wague Diakate
is pronounced Ba-ba-wah-GAY dja-kee-TAY.)