The name Lomassa means 'Divine Blue' and is the Bamanan name of one of the twelve shades of indigo that a Malian indigo dyer who has passed through their 7-year apprenticeship can create with the fermented indigo-leaf vat.
Aboubakar Fofana first encountered indigo as a child, in a forest in West Africa. The ordinary-looking green leaves stained his fingers blue when crushed, and the memory of this extraordinary transformation remained with him for many years.
Whilst still very young, he moved from his birthplace in Mali to Paris, where he completed his studies. He worked as a calligrapher and graphic designer and his first art exhibitions were calligraphic in nature. His success in these disciplines inspired him to return to West Africa and to his childhood memory of indigo. The technique of fermented indigo dyeing with whole leaves had already been lost from much of West Africa, and Fofana began to put the jigsaw pieces back together, dividing his time between libraries in Paris, and travels throughout West Africa in search of anyone who still had knowledge of this ancient art. After many years of research, study and practice in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire, and exchanges with indigo masters in Japan, he is now one of the world's foremost practitioners of fermented indigo vat dyeing and mineral mud-dyeing techniques.
Fofana describes himself as an artist, textile designer, natural dyer and calligrapher. His atelier is in Bamako, Mali, and he regularly travels the world showing his textiles and artworks, giving workshops and lectures, and meeting others who work with natural dyes and textiles. In 2015 he started an indigo farming cooperative project in the southeast of Mali, and is a tireless promoter of Mali's indigenous cotton species and the handspinners and weavers who transform it.
His work is motivated by his spiritual beliefs, which reflect a love for the natural world and its cycles and rhythms and a deep concern for the environment. He has a vision to share the beauty and luxury of work produced using indigenous West African materials and techniques whilst helping to reinvigorate and sustain important traditions.
Follow Aboubakar on Instagram to learn more about his work and his travels.
Image credits for this site: François Goudier, Riley Salyards, Jen Angel and Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore