Zakaria and the colors of Sahel

29 May 2013

In Ouagadougou, the craft company Couleurs du Sahel produces original fabrics and cotton linen, in the spirit of Faso Dan Fani, the typical Burkinabe cotton loincloth, and bogolan, a printing and dyeing technique from Mali.

Zakaria, its founder, is committed in a friendly production environment on the whole chain, from the choice of organic cotton to yarn dyeing by natural pigments, and finally the weaving process on hand looms .

The day I met him, he was wearing a shirt cut in a fabric from his workshop, a beautiful cotton canvas in a very refined gray-green color. This affable and passionate man is availing himself from the traditional Burkina Faso textile crafts.

He gently shared his knowledge with me and showed me the different plants and leaves used for their natural pigments, usually by decoction. This way I discovered which vegetation grows around Ouagadougou city and which color it can give: African tree peels (called n’pecou) which gives an orange-reddish color, African birch leaves (called n’Galama) give bright yellow, the locust bean gives brown and finally indigo leaves give a deep blue color. Basing his knowledge on botanical books, Zakaria constantly keeps developing new colors by new dyeing tests.

His cotton comes from Burkina Faso. This “white gold” as we call it, is one of the main resources of the country and is a great success for export. And organic cotton has become a very promising industry. There are still some difficulties to keep a steady supply. Yarn stocks are sometimes scarce and it can be difficult to fill orders when the required due time is very short.

Couleurs du Sahel has joined a cooperative of twelve workshops all in the textile industry, in order to get more leverage in the cotton orders and to promote the development of their business.

Zakaria proudly wears Burkina Faso’s identity, showing a great example between tradition and modernity, and defending an artisanal quality production, self-sufficient and resourceful, based on natural resources of the country.

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