Meet the Makers: Kôkô Dunda and Batik

For over 14 years, these 10 women of Loong Néré in Koudougou, Burkina Faso have been working to keep the traditional crafts and techniques of Kôkô Dunda and Batik alive.

Throughout our Meet the Makers series, which shines a light on artisan communities within our network and their traditional methods of production, we’ve come across dozens of fun facts and interesting stories, but we will never forget when Ouedraogo Pascaline, expert weaver from Ponsomtenga, said, “You can spot a Burkinabé from a mile away just by the clothes he wears’‘. And while she was referring to their world-known and celebrated Faso Dan Fani, this also stands true for two of the country’s oldest print techniques that produce stunning fabrics of their own: Kôkô Dunda and Batik.

Notable around the region, oftentimes even called “a national pride”, Kôkô Dunda has origins in the city of Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. The name literally translates to ‘entrance to Kôkô’, the district in Bobo Dioulasso where the dyers typically work. This colourful textile is a powerful symbol for the country’s fashion scene and also represents an important aspect of Burkina Faso’s cultural, social, and economical sectors.

Wooden stamps like these are used during the Batik process of hand-stamping.

A hand-dyed cotton loincloth recognised by its multicoloured stripes created with a resistance-dye technique, we can say it takes a village – or an expert team- of weavers and dyers to reproduce them. The process of Kôkô Dunda is similar to that of tie-dye: the fabrics are folded and tied prior to dyeing in order to achieve particular colours and patterns, but what makes it unique is the additional know-how required to reproduce these national treasures. The dyeing technique used is passed down generations, and involves folding the cloth into a fan shape in between the pieces of tubes that are tied with nylon threads. When it’s time to soak the virgin fabric into the coloured baths, it’s taken from the lightest colour to the darkest, and later left in the sun to dry.

Due to its intense dyeing process, traditional Kôkô Dunda creation and artisans that specialise in this craft are hard to find. Remote communities spread throughout the country are found to be experts in this exuberant fabric, as well as other specialty techniques such as Batik.

Batik, unlike Kôkô Dunda, has origins in Jakarta, Indonesia, but the complexity of this hand-stamp process utilising wooden blocks  mirrors that of Burkina Faso’s “national pride”. In fact, the word batik has Javanese origins, where tik means ‘to dot’.  Batik is a print technique that uses wooden blocks to create specific patterns, known to some for being the “most expressive of all methods, allowing for unexpected results and maximum creativity. The fabric is printed on by coating certain parts with wax, utilising wooden stamps to carefully place the wax on the fabric. Once the wax is fully dried, the fabric first goes into a dye bath, followed by a hot bath where the wax melts. Only then are we able to see the final results. The process is both time-tested and time-consuming, requiring an expert skill set to produce the delicate hand-stamped textiles.

Kôkô Dunda and Batik sun drying after the manual-intensive dyeing and stamping processes.

Since 2019, Loong Néré has partnered with Burkina Faso-based social enterprise CABES to create artisanal items for various fashion houses and samples for international brands. More recently, both groups collaborated on production for EFI Designer Accelerator participant and winner of LVMH prize, Lukhanyo Mdingi’s latest collection.

Watch the full video below to meet the ladies of Loong Néré and discover how they create memorable textiles through Batik and Kôkô Dunda.