Mud Cloth from Mali
Originated by African women of Mali's Bamana culture centuries ago, hand-woven and hand-dyed mud cloth or mudcloth or bogolan uses a centuries-old process using numerous application of various plant juices/teas and mud to hand woven cotton cloth.
No two pieces are alike and each pattern and colour combination has a meaning, the production of mud cloth is primarily in West Africa.
Traditionally, Bamana women make mud cloth during the dry season which last from October to May. Duting this season more time can be spent on non-agricultural activities like pottery and mud cloth.
MUD CLOTH COLOUR:
Each colour in mud cloth sheet has its own meaning. The most traditional colouring has been the black background with white designs. This is typically used for story telling or the portrayal of a proverb.
Another colour popular among hunters, and the Funlani people is the rust. This colour is preferred as it does not show dirt and also as it is supposed to represent the strong supernatural powers that protect the hunter. The rust colour signifies blood either fron the hunt, or from warfare. Because mud cloth is made from the soils, it has been useful to both groups as form of camouflage.
Bogolan Cloth once despised as rural non-Islamic, peasants cloth has transformed into a symbol of national identity for Mali. The ccreation of most Bongolan Cloth begins in the Beledougou Bamana area north of Bamako.
The manufacture of this cloth is a long painstaking, laborious, process. It is woven men on the local version of narrow strip loom. First raw materials are hand processed and woven into plain whitte cloth strips about 12 centimetres wide. Next comes the dying. which is primarily a womans's craft passed from mother to daughter.
After the cloth is washed and allowed to shrink while dying, it is then soaked in a brown solution made from pounded Bougalan three leaves and other ingredients made by specialists. The cloth takes on even yellow colour that is ready for for the application of mud dye designs. The mud that is used is collected from the deepest sections of the ponds. the mud is left to ferment in a covered pot for about a year. During this time it turns black in colour. The potted mud is dilute with water when needed.
The designs are brown on the cloth section by using various width spatulas made of small pieces of Bamboo and flat metal. The main larger sections are marked off while lying flat on the ground. he smaller more detailed work is done on woman's lap with the section placed over a calabash. The entire process of washing, dipping in the leaf solution and painting wit hthe mud dye is repeated after which a solution that includes caustics soda is applied to the yellow areas. These areas are exposed to intense sunlight for a week until the desired whiteness is reached. A typical piece of Mud cloth takes two to three weeks to make from start to finish.
The amazing aspect of Bongolanfini or mudcloth is that the background is actually applied and not the lightened areas.
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