Visual Archaeology Interpretation



Senufo Mud Cloth of Côte d'Ivoire

Obi nkyerkyere nyansa kotoku mfa nkoto adakam mmegyina adihonse se, “Kyere me asem!”
Akan Language

No one should gather wisdom in a bag, put it in a box, and then stand on a road and say, “Teach me wisdom!”

English Language

Grade Level K-5
Art • Science • Social Studies • French Language

Fakaha is a small village in the country of Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. The Senufo people create paintings that are stylized drawings of masked figures and animals. Painted by the men, who live in Fakaha, the paintings are drawn and painted on pieces of white, loosely woven, cotton fabric. First, the Senufo draw the figures freehand with a yellowish-green dye made from the leaves of the falma bush. Then a second coat of black paint is drawn on top of the falma dye. This paint is made from a sludgy mud dug from the roots of trees in swampy areas. Traditional Senufo paintings were made into dance or hunting clothes. The Senufo believe the drawings have special powers that protect and bring the hunter good luck. Today this cloth is seldom made into hunting clothes. Instead, the paintings are sold to tourists and specialty shops. Many have become ornamental fabrics for wall hangings, pillows, tablecloths, or other decorative items.

Looking at the art of the Senufo can be an entrance to issues that children face in the country of Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. Less widely known is what happens on the cocoa farms of Côte d'Ivoire; the plight of many child workers on cocoa plantations. In 1998, an investigation by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) uncovered a reemergence of child slavery in the cocoa fields of the Côte d'Ivoire, where 43 percent of the world's cocoa comes from. Two years later, a report by the US State Department concluded that in recent years approximately 15,000 children aged 9 to 12 have been sold into forced labor on cotton, coffee and cocoa plantations in the north of the country. A June 15, 2001 document released by the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that trafficking in children is widespread in West Africa. Some of these children wind up as slaves on cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire. At the beginning of the 21st century, the children of West Africa are trapped in conditions that were supposed to have been eliminated in the 19th century. The reemergence of child slavery can be blamed, in part, by a downturn in the price of raw cocoa. Cocoa prices are currently in a slump, the casualty of global overproduction. The price drop has been exacerbated by deregulation of agriculture in West Africa, which abolished commodity boards across the region, leaving small farmers at the mercy of the market. With prices in the basement, cocoa farmers have been forced to cut their labor costs, and tragically that has meant relying on slave labor.

Discovering Mudcloth

African Voices

There's Nothing Sweet about Child Slave Labor in the Cocoa Field

Senufo Mud Cloth Lesson Plan


Senufo Mud Cloth

















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Copyright ©2004 Linda Kreft