The term “mudcloth” is translated from Bambara, the language spoken in Mali. “Bògòlanfini” as it is called in Bambara, combines three root words: “bogo” meaning earth or mud, “lan” meaning ‘with’, and “fini” meaning cloth.
Though it’s commonly referred to as “African”, the fabric hails from northern Africa, specifically the inland country of Mali in the Western Sahara region. The handmade Malian cloth dyed using fermented mud, giving it its name-sake. The tradition dates back to the 12th century.
Traditionally made by men, they weave together thin strips of plain fabric, usually a yellowish beige natural color, into squares that were then stitched together. After the construction of the cloth, the fabric was then dyed in baths of leaves and branches. This process is used to bind the dye to the fabric.
The fabric was then laid out to dry in the sun, after which beautiful patterns would be intricately and carefully painted using a special kind of mud. The mud was collected from numerous streams and ponds and left to ferment over seasons.
As the mud dries, it changes colors, from dark brown or black to a gray color. The excess mud is washed off the fabric and the process is repeated many times. With each repetition, the affected area becomes darker. The unpainted areas were treated with a bleaching agent, turning the natural yellow color brown. After sun drying for a week, the fabric is washed off and leaves the characteristic white pattern on a dark background.
Neutral yet punchy, mudcloth-inspired textiles are a wonderful choice for the pattern-shy and pattern enthusiast alike, and it works everywhere from shower curtains to hamper liners to accent pillows.
There are many symbols which you may find in your mudcloth; the patterns and varieties are endless.
Also, many meanings differ depending on the region, ethnic group, or individual.
There are many other patterns that have meaning. It is difficult to find precise meanings as different people have different meanings that they will give to the same pattern or color combination.
The more knowledge that a person gains about this art form, however, the greater and deeper your appreciation will be! [...]Read more...
The process of making Kuba cloth is extremely time consuming and may take several days to form a simple place mat sized piece.
Traditionally, the men used to first gather the leaves of the raffia tree and then dye them using mud, indigo or substances from the camwood tree.
They then rub the raffia fibers in their hands to soften them and make it easier for weaving. After they’ve completed the base cloth, the women would embroider it. They do this by running a needle with a few raffia fibers through the cloth until the fibers show up on the opposite end.
They then took a knife and cut off the top of the fibers, leaving only a little bit showing. Doing this hundreds of times forms a design. The designs are seldom planned out ahead of time, and most of the embroidery is done by memory.
The Kuba people, who invented this, and many other fabrics were very resistant to using European cloth; and for many years, seldom used machine made fabrics. When researching this and other textiles that the Kuba people developed, it is not hard to understand why they resisted the change so much.
Each fabric, each pattern, and each design in traditional Kuba fabrics has great meaning.
Social status, age, marital status, and a person’s character are just a few of the things a piece of cloth symbolizes to these people. Own a piece of this fabric today; not only will you be sharing in the culture of these ingenious people, but you will experience the true art of the Kuba people as well. [...]Read more...
Mudcloth is an incredibly delicate piece of material that goes through a time-consuming process and is normally made of 100% cotton. It is made by hand, and it takes four days to a week to finish.
A piece of mudcloth can be found in many different colours, and it is usually made from scratch.
A traditional loom is normally hand-held and makes a strip of cloth five to six inches wide. For a normal-sized piece, nine panels are woven and then sewn together. The women then paint and design the cloth.
The Personal Effect…
A mudcloth artist is a lot like a painter. Each concept must be taught and learned over a long period of time, but an aspiring artist must learn how to make each of the different dyes out of organic substances, as well as how each of the substances will react with the fabric and fixative. First, the fabric is immersed in a tea made from the Bogolon tree, which is native to Mali, West Africa. Next, it is hand-painted with mud and left to dry for about one year.
The artist will apply a layer of mud to the fabric, ensuring that it is completely saturated. This ensures that the design will not wash out later. The artist will then apply another layer over the first. The fabric is then washed in an organic solvent and allowed to dry. The resulting patterns appear more pronounced.
After this, the black and white fabric is painted on with a soft drink. This exposes the fabric to harmful bleach, which causes it to return to its original state of pure cotton. [...]Read more...
The images of these products are purely indicative of the “type”of item that we offer. This is due to the product being hand crafted by individuals with a free creative license and not mass produced in any controlled environment. Exact duplication and matching is not possible however we can offer products that will always have distinct similarities.
Cushion covers are shipped without inners to ensure that shipping charges are kept to a minimum, unless other arrangements have been made.
For bulk and wholesale inquiries, please contact us.
African Source Materials
from a range of African countries including Mali, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Swaziland.