This article explores the cultural and historical context of textiles that were never woven, the product of failed efforts by a colonial administration to transform a distinctive West African art form: strip-woven cotton fabric. Although these textiles were the result of an unsuccessful project, they nonetheless provide insights into the agency of visual culture at colonial intersections. Textiles that were woven also figure in this exploration of cotton and colonialism, primarily to emphasize their distinction from those that were not. Both sets of textiles are from the Soudan Français (today Mali), the largest of France's West African colonies and a major cotton producer. Although we know little about the forms these never-made—more accurately, almost never-made—objects might have taken, we do know why and when they were to be made. These textiles would...

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