The mud cloth also known as Bògòlanfini or Bogolan is of Malian origin, hand-woven and dyed with fermented mud. It is one of Africa's prestigious clothing, holding great cultural heritage and a Malian identity. The mud cloth is characterized by white geometric designs on black, brown, green, or red background. As the name implies, the mud cloth means cloth derived from the earth (bogolan meaning something made using mud and fini meaning cloth). Traditional, the mud cloth is made by the Bamana who lived to the east of Bamako.
Archeological excavations have been able to prove that the mud cloth dates as far back to the 12th century if not earlier, with some designs depicting historical events of such centuries.
Making of the Mud ClothTraditionally, the mud cloth is woven by the men, while women do the dyeing. The whole painting process was done by women. Younger women were taught by their mothers the processes involved, in a long-term apprenticeship. Although in recent times, men have taken up painting of the cloth, basically for tourist attractions, the fact that machine-produced fabrics have taken over cannot be totally ruled out.
The processes (traditional) involved in the making of the mud cloth are as follows:
- Combing and spinning of locally made cotton into yarns done by women.
- Weaving of yarns on double-heddle looms to narrow stripes of about 15cm wide, done by men.
- The strips are cut into shorter pieces which are joined with a whip-stitch, selvedge to selvedge.
- The cloth is washed and dried in the sun, mainly to preshrink it.
- Leafs from Anogeissus leiocarpus and Combretum glutinosum are boiled for few minutes or pounded and soaked for 24 hours. This forms a brown tea that is rich in tannic acid.
- The cloth piece is then soaked in the tea. It takes a brownish color and is allowed to dry in the sun.
- Painting using fermented mud collected in previous seasons is carried out. The background surrounding the designs is covered in mud.
- Excess mud is washed off from the clothing.
- Soaking, painting, washing, and drying process may be repeated several times, with the mud painted area becoming darker each time.
- The cloth is then place in the sun for weeks and rewashed.
Mud Cloth PatternsJust like other African fabrics, every symbol holds a meaning; every cloth has a tale to tell. Next time you see a mud cloth, I hope you'll be able to tell the story behind it.
Some common mud cloth symbols and their meanings/usage:
- Circles with a dot at the middle: This pattern represents the love and unity of family and community. The dot represents the family in itself, while the circle represents the house of the family.
- The Iguana's Elbow: The Iguana is believed to be an animal that can lead a hunter to water. The symbol or pattern represents good fortune.
- Bone of Snakes: This pattern is used to represent bravery.
- Spindle: Being one of the oldest and popular patterns, the spindle represents the loom used in weaving.
- Cushion: This pattern represents wealth and luxury.
- Sickle and Blade (Wosoko): This pattern represent tells a story about a farmer who did an exceptional job.
If you are a fan of African fashion, the mud cloth is a must have for you. Apart from fashion and wearing the mud cloth as a piece of clothing, it can be used for decoration and it provides that perfect finish and touch of Africa.
I hope you enjoyed this post, cheers.