The fabrics of traditional men and women’s dress in Senegal (boubous, loincloths and head cloths) are very brightly coloured. The cotton fabric is printed in a factory and cotton dimity in various colours is imported from Europe. But there is also a whole range of products that are dyed using white European dimity or locally-woven cotton fabric.

The traditional dye used here is indigo, a plant whose leaves are stacked, rounded into balls or into loaves and then dried. When the indigo is to be used, it is soaked in water. The resulting paste is put into an earthenware container with other ingredients for several days. A chemical reaction take place causing fermentation. Sometimes, charms and incantations are used to ensure the success of the dye bath. Fabric to be dyed is washed, then soaked, rung out and soaked again until the desired colour is obtained (the more soakings, the more intense the colour).

Today, chemical colouring is added to the vegetable indigo to make it easier to obtain the desired colour.
The fabrics of traditional men and women’s dress in Senegal (boubous, loincloths and head cloths) are very brightly coloured. The cotton fabric is printed in a factory and cotton dimity in various colours is imported from Europe. But there is also a whole range of products that are dyed using white European dimity or locally-woven cotton fabric.

The traditional dye used here is indigo, a plant whose leaves are stacked, rounded into balls or into loaves and then dried. When the indigo is to be used, it is soaked in water. The resulting paste is put into an earthenware container with other ingredients for several days. A chemical reaction take place causing fermentation. Sometimes, charms and incantations are used to ensure the success of the dye bath. Fabric to be dyed is washed, then soaked, rung out and soaked again until the desired colour is obtained (the more soakings, the more intense the colour).

Today, chemical colouring is added to the vegetable indigo to make it easier to obtain the desired colour.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Glass Painting

The Dyers

Mor Guèye
Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily", Canadian Heritage Information Network
c. 1997
© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Women go to the market at least once a day to buy the ingredients needed to prepare one or two meals (fish, tomatoes). Buying provisions in advance is difficult because it is hot and many families do not own a refrigerator.

Tomatoes are sold in bulk. Depending on the size of the pile of tomatoes and their freshness and quality, the price can vary. This sales’ method is used for a number of products and avoids having to use scales. It also allows for the purchase of very small quantities.

This stall sells rice and millet, grains which are diet staples, as is the curdled milk sold alongside. The curdled milk is kept in a calabash (the gourd of the calabash vine, cut in two, hollowed out, scraped and dried), and is protected from flies by a piece of cloth. It is ladled out with a half gourd whose shape resembles a dipper.

People also carry calabashes on their heads to bring home their purchases.

Similar small stands can be found in front of private houses because many women run small businesses to improve their living conditions.
Women go to the market at least once a day to buy the ingredients needed to prepare one or two meals (fish, tomatoes). Buying provisions in advance is difficult because it is hot and many families do not own a refrigerator.

Tomatoes are sold in bulk. Depending on the size of the pile of tomatoes and their freshness and quality, the price can vary. This sales’ method is used for a number of products and avoids having to use scales. It also allows for the purchase of very small quantities.

This stall sells rice and millet, grains which are diet staples, as is the curdled milk sold alongside. The curdled milk is kept in a calabash (the gourd of the calabash vine, cut in two, hollowed out, scraped and dried), and is protected from flies by a piece of cloth. It is ladled out with a half gourd whose shape resembles a dipper.

People also carry calabashes on their heads to bring home their purchases.

Similar small stands can be found in front of private houses because many women run small businesses to improve their living conditions.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Glass Painting

The Market

V. Lô
Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily", Canadian Heritage Information Network

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


The weaver is seated on a low stool in front of his simple loom made of wood. He is holding a reed and a set of two heddles to which two pedals are attached. The very long warp stretches for several metres in front of the weaver.

The woven band is not very wide (around 20 centimetres) and the weaver rolls it up in front of him as he works or stores it in a kind of basket.

The weaver produces cloth for the market as well as special orders for clients. If the latter, he sets up his loom close to the house of his client who provides him with the yarn as well as board and lodging.

The fabric may be a single colour, striped (multicoloured or "wolof") or checked with designs ("mandjack" fabric that requires an assistant to lift the warp threads).
A waistcloth or skirt requires six strips of about 1.6 to 2 metres long. They are sold in the market in rolls of six and they must be sewn together by tailors or by the women themselves.
The weaver is seated on a low stool in front of his simple loom made of wood. He is holding a reed and a set of two heddles to which two pedals are attached. The very long warp stretches for several metres in front of the weaver.

The woven band is not very wide (around 20 centimetres) and the weaver rolls it up in front of him as he works or stores it in a kind of basket.

The weaver produces cloth for the market as well as special orders for clients. If the latter, he sets up his loom close to the house of his client who provides him with the yarn as well as board and lodging.

The fabric may be a single colour, striped (multicoloured or "wolof") or checked with designs ("mandjack" fabric that requires an assistant to lift the warp threads).
A waistcloth or skirt requires six strips of about 1.6 to 2 metres long. They are sold in the market in rolls of six and they must be sewn together by tailors or by the women themselves.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Glass Painting

The Weaver

Badara Diallo
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily"

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


One of the major activities of women, particularly in villages, is grinding. In towns, grinders set up shop in the streets and do this for money.

Grinders use a mortar, into which they put their cereal grains, and a pestle with which to crush them. Women grind millet, sorghum and rice to separate the grain from the husk and then again to hull it. Cereal that has been ground is winnowed and then ground again to make brokens (rice) or flour (corn, millet or sorghum). Mills have tended to replace this arduous task.

Many people do their grinding together and women sing to give some rhythm to their movement because you need good timing to avoid getting two pestles in the mortar at once! Every so often, a grinder will throw her pestle in the air and clap her hands before catching it. The others do the same in turn, making it into a kind of game to relieve the monotony of the work.

In order to have more room to move, one of the grinders has hitched up her skirt to her loincloth (traditional underwear).

Women are represented decked out in their jewellery: bracelets, necklaces and "libidor" (gold coins) in their hair. The woman at the Read More
One of the major activities of women, particularly in villages, is grinding. In towns, grinders set up shop in the streets and do this for money.

Grinders use a mortar, into which they put their cereal grains, and a pestle with which to crush them. Women grind millet, sorghum and rice to separate the grain from the husk and then again to hull it. Cereal that has been ground is winnowed and then ground again to make brokens (rice) or flour (corn, millet or sorghum). Mills have tended to replace this arduous task.

Many people do their grinding together and women sing to give some rhythm to their movement because you need good timing to avoid getting two pestles in the mortar at once! Every so often, a grinder will throw her pestle in the air and clap her hands before catching it. The others do the same in turn, making it into a kind of game to relieve the monotony of the work.

In order to have more room to move, one of the grinders has hitched up her skirt to her loincloth (traditional underwear).

Women are represented decked out in their jewellery: bracelets, necklaces and "libidor" (gold coins) in their hair. The woman at the far end is wearing traditional ethnic multicoloured earrings that are of Muslim origin.

While the men work, the elders who stay in the village take advantage of the opportunity to chat or "palabrer". Most, both men and women, wear clothing that has been woven in traditional patterns.

Behind the houses, millet granaries made of braided stalks are constructed on wood piles to protect the grain from predators (insects and rodents) and humidity.

Catholics or animists as well as Muslims no doubt live in this village because a pig, forbidden in the Muslim religion, can be seen in the background not far from the woman with the earrings.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Glass Painting

The Grinders

Alexis Ngom
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily"
c. 1997
© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


One of Senegal’s main crops is peanuts. They are used to make oil, soap and food in the form of peanut butter, powder or just raw.

Peanuts are also a welcome delicacy that can be found everywhere in the street (roasted, as pralines covered with caramelized sugar or in nougat).

Peanuts are roasted on site. Peanut sellers use a charcoal stove (a malagas stove), on which they place a container with a curved bottom filled with clean and sifted sand. The peanut seller soaks the peanuts in salted water and then buries them in the hot sand. When the peanuts are crisp, she removes them with a skimmer. She sells by the measuring cup (a tuna tin or tea cup).

It is easy for children to buy peanuts as soon as they have a bit of money. This boy seems to be a street urchin. He has no shoes and his clothes are too small but he is protected from all dangers, especially the "evil eye", by a belt of charms (amulets).
Peanut sellers wear a tank top, a "boubou", a head cloth and a woven skirt made of several bands of fabric, each approximately 20 centimetres wide, stitched together.
One of Senegal’s main crops is peanuts. They are used to make oil, soap and food in the form of peanut butter, powder or just raw.

Peanuts are also a welcome delicacy that can be found everywhere in the street (roasted, as pralines covered with caramelized sugar or in nougat).

Peanuts are roasted on site. Peanut sellers use a charcoal stove (a malagas stove), on which they place a container with a curved bottom filled with clean and sifted sand. The peanut seller soaks the peanuts in salted water and then buries them in the hot sand. When the peanuts are crisp, she removes them with a skimmer. She sells by the measuring cup (a tuna tin or tea cup).

It is easy for children to buy peanuts as soon as they have a bit of money. This boy seems to be a street urchin. He has no shoes and his clothes are too small but he is protected from all dangers, especially the "evil eye", by a belt of charms (amulets).
Peanut sellers wear a tank top, a "boubou", a head cloth and a woven skirt made of several bands of fabric, each approximately 20 centimetres wide, stitched together.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Glass Painting

The Peanut Seller

A. Fouss
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily"

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


This is, generally speaking, a woman’s chore. Outside, a housewife has built a fire in front of her house with wood gathered by her or her children in the brush surrounding the village.

Although wood is available in cities, women prefer to buy charcoal because it is easier to use.

To combat deforestation and desertification, the government of Senegal has reduced the price of propane to try to encourage people to use it. However, the initial investment in bottled gas and a burner is too much for some people.

Most of the time, a mother will go about her household tasks with her baby slung on her back in a waistcloth. If the baby cries too much or needs to nurse, the mother will hold it on her knee.

Housewives, even when they are cooking, are depicted wearing all their jewellery (necklaces, bracelets and earrings), in their best clothing and with their hair done - all symbols of femininity.

Blacksmiths very often make kitchen utensils (ladles, skimmers, pot, etc.) from recycled metal (tin cans, pieces of aluminum, etc...
This is, generally speaking, a woman’s chore. Outside, a housewife has built a fire in front of her house with wood gathered by her or her children in the brush surrounding the village.

Although wood is available in cities, women prefer to buy charcoal because it is easier to use.

To combat deforestation and desertification, the government of Senegal has reduced the price of propane to try to encourage people to use it. However, the initial investment in bottled gas and a burner is too much for some people.

Most of the time, a mother will go about her household tasks with her baby slung on her back in a waistcloth. If the baby cries too much or needs to nurse, the mother will hold it on her knee.

Housewives, even when they are cooking, are depicted wearing all their jewellery (necklaces, bracelets and earrings), in their best clothing and with their hair done - all symbols of femininity.

Blacksmiths very often make kitchen utensils (ladles, skimmers, pot, etc.) from recycled metal (tin cans, pieces of aluminum, etc...

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Glass Painting

Preparing a Meal

A. Lô
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Musée de la Femme "Henriette Bathily"

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe elements of life in Senegal, with emphasis on the role of women
  • Describe the colours and patterns utilized by glass painting artists and analyze how these artistic elements relate to the theme communicated through the finished product
  • Describe the role of glass painting in Senegal’s culture

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