Mud Cloth Patterns and History

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Text of Mud Cloth Patterns and History

MUD CLOTHHistory, Origin and Significance Price $100 size approx 2mx1.5

Bogolanfini (Bo-ho-lahn-FEE-nee), which translates as mud cloth is a long established tradition among the Bamana, a Mande speaking people who inhabit a large area to the east and north of Bamako in Mali The origin of this cloth is believed to lie in the Beledougou region of central Mali. Hand woven and handdyed mudcloth uses a centuries old process using numerous applications of various plant juices/teas and mud to dye hand woven cotton cloth. Traditionally, Bamana women made the mud cloth. Bogolonfin, for Bamana women, has always been an essential component in the marking of major life transitions, such as birth, marriage, and death. Bogolanfini is a living art form, with techniques and motifs passed down from generations of mothers to daughters. Bamana hunters also wear Bogolanfini in the form of red mudcloth laden with leather amulets, forceful visual symbols of the supernatural powers believed necessary for successful hunters to possess. Each piece of mudcloth tells a story. No two pieces are alike and each pattern and color combination has a meaning. The symbols, arrangements, color as well as shape of the mudcloth reveal secrets. The mudcloth is also used to define a persons social status, character or occupation. Bogolanfini is an expression of Malian national identity and a symbol of belonging to African culture. Preparation Cotton is grown locally and harvested, hand spun and then prepared for the looming process. The looming process begins when men, using small hand or double heddle looms, weave the cotton into long strips, called finimugu. These thin strips, typically seven in number (but anywhere from 5 to 9 or more), are them sewn together to create a panel ranging from approximately 32x48 to 45x72 . From this point on the women usually take over preparation of the mudcloth. Women are the artists creating the designs and each have their own technique and style of preparing the cloth. Steps 1. The cloth is washed in boiling water to shrink it to its final size. 2. After drying, it is then soaked in a special solution of pounded leaves from the Bogolon tree, which is native to Mali, the cengura tree. The solution used is a dark solution and enables the fabric to absorb the mud dye. The cloth now takes on a yellowish color, which will fade slightly while drying in the sun. 3. The mud dye is made from iron rich mud, collected from ponds mixed with water, set aside and allowed to ferment for up to a year, allowing it to become black. This mud is then used to paint designs on the cloth, being sure to saturate the area with the mud dye. 4. The mud dye is painted on the cloth using sticks, reeds, strips of bamboo, palm fiber brushes, feathers and other tools, only the background is painted leaving the design untouched. The active ingredient in the mud dye is iron oxide, which is converted by tannic acid in the leaf solutions into a dye of iron tannate.

5. Once the cloth is dry from the mud dye it will again be washed in a different solution of leaves, grasses and herbs to ensure the mud is bound to the cloth. 6. Sometimes a second of third coat of the mud dye is applied to achieve dark and bright colors. 7. After all the coats of the mud dye have been set, the cloth is given a wash and rinse in a solution made from boiling leaves, which serves to further enhance the color. 8. The final step in making mudcloth is bleaching. Bleaching is where a caustic soda, called Sodani, is applied to the yellow areas of the cloth (the design), where the mud dye was not applied. This solution bleaches these yellow areas leaving them white so they design may stand out from the mud dyed areas. Colors of Mudcloth As stated earlier, the colors of mudcloth represent different meanings, tell stories, or portray a proverb. Although mudcloths with a black background and white design are considered the traditional coloring of the cloth, other colors are used. A rust color is supposed to represent the strong supernatural powers that protect the hunter. It also signifies blood from either the hunt of from warfare and is useful as a form of camouflage. Women and girls typically wear the color white during ceremonial events. Gray is a rarely seen color but like rust, it serves as a camouflage for hunters. To the disdain of the older generation, untraditional colors such as reds, purples, yellows and oranges are now being used.

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