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Made in The Gambia: Woven Fabrics

My Magazine 2022/12
6 min
Weaving played a very important role in the history of The Gambia, but lately, the tradition of weaving is slowly disappearing. Most of the materials now are factory-made and imported. Due to the competitive pricing, The Gambia lost its place in the cotton industry to the places like Senegal. Hand-woven fabric is today very valued and rare to find.

Meet Ousman Sambou, a young weaver who keeps the tradition alive, making most of his product out of cotton. He started weaving in 2002, and he became a professional weaver, weaving being his only way of earning income. His uncle taught him the profession, and Ousman has been working independently since 2018. He knows every single part of the process, from fixing the loom, setting the threads, to weaving.

Most of the products he makes include scarves, bags and table runners. Still, he can also create material for making the dress in the desired measurements and according to the customer’s preferences.

He mainly uses cotton but sometimes combines it with black base threads from polyester, making his products strong. He gets materials from the Serekunda market. Sometimes he has to go to Dakar to buy cotton. The amount of cotton produced in The Gambia is not enough, which causes the resources to be very expensive.

The fixing of the loom is not an easy process. For the width of half a meter of the scarf, Ousman has to tie at least 500 threads to the pole, one by one, before he can start weaving. The loom also consists of a part that can create a pattern in a diamond shape. To do one scarf (2 m x 1 m) would take him about 8 hours.

You can find Ousman at the Footsteps Eco Lodge, where he has his workshop. You can check out his products there, and you can even attend his weaving class. He is part of the project called The Cotton Trail, which is offering an authentic eco-experience to visitors and trying to rejuvenate the industry back to its former state or at least keep the tradition alive. The Footsteps eco-lodge is now the base for the weaving.

Contact Ousman

Contact Ousman if you would like to gift unique hand-made scarf or bag or buy yourself a special souvenir. 

+220 774 5411

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