I have spent almost two years in Mali. I like local craft and Dogon antiques.
Siaka is my special provider. You ask him what you want and he can provide. You want local tourist craft, he can provide. You want a real Dogon mask or a Touareg old saber, he will bring it to you and the best prices of the country.
What to buy: I bought a real Kanaga mask, Bogolan, masks and Touareg arts, etc. Anything from the country.
What to pay: Tell him you are the friend of Frédéric and Juniana, you will have a better price
Local crafts in Mali are rich and varied, differing from one region to another. All craft products are made by hand, often in villages. By buying local crafts you are helping to keep these traditions alive and also helping the local economy.
What to buy: Many of the crafts take their influence directly from nature. One of the most famous is the bogolan fabrique or mudcloth. The 'mud' is mined on the banks of the river Niger. Designs are painted on the hand dyed cloth. The designs are nature based and are symbolic. Often families have their own special designs.
Jewellery is a major craft industry in Mali. Both silver and gold is worked. Most of the gold is mined in Mali. The designs are intricate and again take their influence from nature. The cost of articles is the cost of their weight. The price is fixed so you usually don't bargain for these. There are one or two really innovative designers in Bamako. One of these can be found near Bamako Coura church in the centre of town. His work is so completely different to the other jewellers. Along the road in Bamako Coura there are many jewellers. The other main centre for them is the Artisanat market. Some jewellery is particular to certain regions of Mali. For example, in Dogon country you will find bracelets and rings of bronze. In the Mopti region you will find huge earrings of gold or gold leaf.
Another main artisan area is that of woodworking. Painted and decorated Masks and sculptures will be found in all the markets, and many of these come from Sénoufo country.
From the area of Ségou up to Timbuktu you will find leatherwork, particularly little boxes with intricate patterns.
Finally, don't miss the mud buildings. This is a craft in its own right. The mud mosque at Djenné and Timbuktu are the epitome of this stylish art.
Everywhere in Mail you find supermarchés or epiceries, where you can buy mineral water, softdrinks, sugar, coffee and other stuff, like in this shop in Kayes.
I asked the shopkeeper, if I could make a picture of his shop. He gave me permission and was very proud. I liked these shops, especially the way the products are heaped on shelves along the wall, forming almost a wonderful piece of art.
What to buy: In this shop in Kayes we bought boxes with bottles of mineral water, trays with tins of coke and sprite. Some of my fellow-travellers were very excited, because they saw bavaria beer. It turned out to be non-alcoholic beer with a caramel taste !
We usually went shopping for our group and went to the local markets. It was not only interesting to see, what was offered, but also to see the differences as we progressed further north. Up in the Sahel there was not much choice left - some tomatos, cucumbers, millet - and that was about it. Plus the people were more "aggressive" trying to get us as their customers....
In the centre of Bamako are a lot of market stalls and shops, where you can buy nearly everything like clothes, indigo, beads, music, music instruments, jewellery... name it.
In 1993 the Grand Marché burnt down, so this picture of 1989 of the market can be history now?
Since we visited many many markets throughout Mali, we could not only enjoy the people there, the colors, the art of piling up their fruit and vegetables, but also notice the differences: the further north we moved (and that means, the poorer the people), the more aggressively they tried win us as customers - it was so sad to experience!
What to buy: Fruits and vegetables - some are rather exotic, like for instance yams...
What to pay: You will definitely have to bargain!!! It is part of the culture and is a lot of fun!
Prices for bogolans are cheaper (and arguably nicer) in Dogon country than in Djenne or Bamako... although quality is probably best in Djenne (but you pay for it). We bought a large for CFA20,000, a medium for CFA7,500 and a small for CFA3,000
A great experience is to go to the local markets in Mali. They are very colorful and have a great atmosphere.
You can normaly buy clothes and live stock. Sometimes it is not so easy to communicate with the dealers, as not everybody understands french. But you will find ways to deal with this problem...
In Mopti we saw this part of the market with lots of the most beautiful pottery! I wish I could have taken some, but it was a little bit too heavy..... It was a joy to look at, though!
What to buy:
Bogolan mud cloth are specific to black Africa. You can find nice objects made of it : bags, scarves.
You can find as well beautiful colorful cloth.
ACI 2000, Hamdallaye, (formerly Radisson SAS), Bamako, 2566, Mali
Good for: Couples
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