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Searching for Authenticity... Mud Cloth Pillows

by Shannon Riesenfeld March 29, 2017

Searching for Authenticity... Mud Cloth Pillows

If you're like me and find yourself wandering around Target or Home Goods at least once a week (way more often if I'm lucky!), you've probably noticed one of the latest trends in home decor: geometric, black and white patterns.  Pillows like these are showing up everywhere... 



When I see things like this, part of me jumps for joy... "YAY!  The trend for artisan-made goods is catching on!"  

But then my heart sinks as I get a closer look at the material and realize that this is simply an imitation product. A polyester fabric pillow made in a factory in India... even though the artwork that it imitates is from Africa.

Traditional Bogolan or "mud cloth" fabric originates in Mali.  It's created using a process that has been passed down for generations.

The textile is made using narrow strips of cotton cloth woven on looms in the villages, which is then sewn together by hand to produce a fabric wide enough to make into clothing, pillows, etc. Once the fabric is dyed it is ready to receive the paint, often applied with the help of a toothbrush and painted free hand or using stencils. 


Oh, when I think about how many artisans in Africa would LOVE the opportunity to make beautiful textiles like this for customers here in America.  The REAL thing.  I think about how drastically their lives would change with the opportunity for a booming business... how their communities would thrive if given the chance to export their authentic products to the U.S. and all over the world!

And I think about how many shoppers here would prefer an authentic product versus a cheap imitation!  How, if given the chance they would be happy to spend an extra $20 for a unique, handmade piece with a story behind it... and the knowledge that their purchase created a positive impact on the artisan's life.

This is the kind of thing that drives my passion to build a business that makes a difference!  To provide a connecting point between artisans and conscious consumers.

You can be sure that each and every product at Mango + Main is the real deal... and if you ask me who made it, I can tell you their name and their story!


Our pillows are created using mud cloth from Mali, which is then sewn into pillows by artisans who work with a company called Six Bougies in Dakar, SenegalGiving back to the local community – particularly women and families – has been a key part of the Six Bougies ethos from day one. This year we are also working with a refugee tailor, Souley Ba, with whom we were put in contact by UNHCR. Souley is a refugee from Mauritania and came to Senegal 15 years ago.

Thank you for helping to create a thriving market for authentic, artisan-made goods here in the U.S.!  

Shannon Riesenfeld
Shannon Riesenfeld


Fair trade enthusiast, artisan advocate, and mom of 4 living in Annapolis, Maryland. I love traveling the world, meeting new people, and learning about different cultures... but when I'm at home you can find me biking the trails or kayaking on the river with my kids!

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