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Bamako Chic: Threads of Power, Color and Culture
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Bamako Chic: Threads of Power, Color and Culture
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Mali: Small Loans, Big Impact

In the 1960s, a small group of Malian women cloth dyers reinvigorated the craft of hand-dyed cloth using a fabric called bazin. Now, thanks to microcredit programs introduced in the mid-1980s, bazin production has flourished into a lucrative enterprise dominated by women. Their artistic creativity has become a force for alleviating poverty and affirming identity in West Africa.

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Produced and directed by Maureen Gosling.

Originally featured in the ViewChange Online Film Contest.

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Segment 1

TITLE
Bamako Chic: Threads of Power, Color, and Culture. A film by Maureen Gosling and Maxine Downs.
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Bamako, Capital of Mali.
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Sanata Magassa, known for her talent for mixing colors, helps support a large extended family.
SANATA MAGASSA
We are three cloth dyers in this house. We are co-wives doing the same work. We are here working non-stop. One of us always has an order, and we help each other with our orders. Thank God, we have some regular customers. I have customers from Rwanda, places like Burkina Faso, and Malians living in France.
TITLE
Self-empowered African women in Mali, one of the poorest nations in the world.
TITLE
In the 1960s, a small group of Malian women transformed the tradition of cloth dyeing, inspired by beauty and economic survival: Djeneba "Mme" Basse, Niamoye, Awa Cisse.
KADIATOU DIALLO
Before, many of us were just sitting and doing nothing.
TITLE
Mothers taught daughters, sisters, and neighbors to dye cloth and lightened the burden of poverty.
TITLE
Today, cloth dyeing is a lucrative economic activity for many, dominated by women.
KADIATOU DIALLO
Microcredit came in and helped us with our businesses.
TITLE
Women's access to microcredit served to expand the dyeing business.
SANATA MAGASSA
The bank is our only support. We borrow money, we work with it, and it helps us.
BOUBACAR DIALLO [Technical Advisor, Freedom from Hunger]
Microfinance, as we know it today, started in Bangladesh with the research project of Professor Muhammad Yunus, what's called the Grameen Bank. In Mali, it started in the 1980s, around 1986. It was the result of the Structural Adjustment Program, PAS, initiated by the World Bank to restructure our economy.
TITLE
Microcredit programs provide small loans to women, who have been shown to pay back their loans more successfully than men.
BOUBACAR DIALLO
Who's in charge of putting food on the table? The woman. Who's in charge of the child? It's the mother. Who nurses the child? It's the mother. When it comes to vaccinations, it's the mother. When a mother sees an increase in her income, it will probably go towards her household, whereas with men, in our African context, it goes to the second wife! The second wife! That's how it is.
SANATA MAGASSA
Women always have dreams. I have many dreams. If I start telling you, it'll get dark while I'm telling you. One of my dreams is a piece of land to build a house for my children and me from this business. Food is not a problem because of what I'm doing. At least I'm able to pay for my children's studies. We always thank God for this work.
KADIATOU DIALLO
Cloth is the most important thing money can buy. If you give someone cloth, they will never forget you.
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Hand-dyed bazin (polished cotton) is popular fashion and sought after by rich and poor alike.
VOICE
We celebrate bazin because Mali depends on bazin. It's one of the top creations in Mali.
SANATA MAGASSA
I've known people who'll buy it even if it means going hungry.
BOUBACAR DIALLO
The cloth dyers are stars!