The Haffenreffer Museum encourages and, at times, funds student field research that increases its collections, extends our knowledge of them, and advances students' academic programs.


In 2004, the museum supported Claire Grace (Brown University, Class of 2003) in a field study of bogolan and bogolanfini production in contemporary Mali. There, she worked with members of Groupe Bogolan Kasobané, innovators and pioneers in the bogolan fine arts movement. Claire already had extensive contacts in Mali: the year before, she had brought these artists to Providence to show their work, hold workshops, and discuss the historical and social roots of bogolan production. At that time, the Museum purchased the work Hommage aux Artistes Anonymes from Groupe Bogolan Kasobané.




Contemporary bogolan: Malian mudcloth in the art and fashion worlds



Hommage aux Artistes Anonymes
Cotton broadcloth, natural pigments
Groupe Bogolan Kasobané, 1985
Haffenreffer Special Fund purchase, 2003


Groupe Bogolan Kasobané's massive bogolan composition, A Tribute to the Anonymous Artists (trans.), expresses their concern for the artists who create works of art and perform for kings, chiefs, communities, nations, and museums and audiences worldwide--but who remain fundamentally anonymous. In the center of the composition, a chief and his two wives watch drummers and dancers perform. In the upper corners, abstract birds with Bamana and Dogon masks for heads represent the means of travel by which audiences are summoned to court for a performance. Arrayed around this tableau, a headless drummer, the face of a singer disappearing into the background, the arms and legs of a stringed-instrument player hidden by the crowd, and other images represent artists whose work might be known but whose identity is not.



One piece represents the use of bogolan in fashion. Chris Seydou, a Malian designer, introduced bogolan to the runways of Paris in the 1970s and through his innovative designs brought it to the attention of diasporic African and Western consumers. Others have since followed his lead.

Moustapha Diawara, a member of Bamako's haute couture industry, created this outfit on commission for the Haffenreffer Museum. Souleymane Goro, a founding member of Groupe Bogolan Kasobané, stenciled the body of the jacket, and members of La Coopérative de Femmes Veuves et Orphelines, another well-known bogolan studio in Bamako, stenciled the sleeves and skirt.


Woman's bogolan suit
Cotton cloth, earth pigments,
plant dyes, cowrie shells
Bamako, Mali
Claire Grace '03 field collection
Haffenreffer Special Fund purchase, 2004



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