Otherwise known as bogolanfini or bokolanfini, mud cloth is one the greatest designs a queen can wear to show her status. The queen is you. Although it may be too warm in the season to wear right now, you can always pick some up at festivals from vendors who sale ethnic clothing. Since summer is festival time, you are more likely to get mud cloth designs now.
Nothing makes a fashion statement better than mudcloth. Traditional mudcloth sheets are handwoven and made one at a time. No two pieces are exactly alike, so the colors shown are available, but the exact patterns vary from one piece to the next. They’re great for clothing, home decoration, crafts and other creative endeavors. African artisans hand-dye symbols into these fabrics in order to tell stories of their villages and African proverbs. Mudcloth has a long tradition of being used by West African warriors and hunters to camouflage themselves. Nowadays, people across the globe are wearing them to stand out and celebrate their connection to the African continent.
History of the cloth
The word bogolan means something made by using mud, while fini means cloth. The dyes and fabric used in mud cloth can be traced back to the 12th century AD. Due to the perishable nature of fabric and the humid climate of tropical sub-Saharan Africa, it is very difficult to do research on and document African textiles such as these.
How it is made
♦ Locally produced cotton is combed and spun into yarn by women
♦ The yarn is woven on a double-heddle loom into a narrow strip of about 15 cm in width. This is called strip weaving and is very labor-intensive but is very popular due to the fact that the loom can easily be dismantled and transported, and that it requires a very small capital investment.
♦ The strip is cut into shorter pieces, the length of the required final cloth. These strips are then joined selvedge to selvedge with a whipstitch.
♦ The cloth is washed (mainly to preshrink it) and dried in the sun. This white cloth is called finimougou and is used extensively for clothing in this undecorated state.
♦ The leaves and branches of two different trees, N’Galaman (Anogeissus leiocarpus) and N’Tjankara (Combretum glutinosum), are pounded and soaked in water for 24 hours or boiled in water for a few minutes. This forms a brownish tea, rich in tannic acid.
♦ The cloth is soaked in this solution and takes on a deep yellow colour. The yellow substance acts as a mordant. The cloth is spread out to dry in the sun.
♦ The painting is done with mud that has been collected from ponds the previous season and left to ferment. The artist outlines the designs with a piece of bamboo or metal tool dipped in the mud. The background surrounding the designs is also
filled in with the mud.
♦ As the cloth is left to dry, the dark black turns grey. The cloth is then washed to remove excess mud.
♦ The process of soaking in the leaf tea, painting with mud, washing and drying is repeated a second and sometimes a third time. With each application the mud painted areas become darker.
♦ The yellow areas are then painted with bleach made from boiled, ground peanuts, water, caustic soda and millet bran. This turns the yellow patterns brown.
♦ The cloth is placed in the sun for a week, after which the bleach solution is washed off with water. This leaves the characteristic white patterns on the
This whole process can take several weeks to complete. The yellow, although it cannot be seen in the final product, forms a very important part of the whole
process. The iron oxide in the mud is converted to iron tannate by the tannic acid in the leaf tea. The tannic oxide forms a fast dye, which will lighten only slightly with subsequent washing.
Traditionally, the whole painting process was only done by women. Young women were taught by their mothers during a long-term apprenticeship. As with most West-African textile production, all the different activities in the making of mud cloth (spinning, weaving and decoration) have always been clearly gender defined. Lately young men have also taken up the task of painting cloths, most of it aimed at the tourist market.
More Mud Cloth in Designs