It is unique, sustainable and trendy but it isn’t new. This cotton fabric has been here since 12th century. It is an ancient African textile which upholds the traditional Malian culture. It is also called ‘bogolanfini’. Did these cues ring a bell? If not, you must read to know about mud cloth fabric which looks stunning with its beautifully diverse African patterns.
This centuries-old, hand-dyed textile, mud cloth is extraordinarily versatile, chic, and deeply rooted in its traditions. It is fascinatingly adaptable and has already paved its way into stylish homes around the world. It has made its mark as tapestry, curtains, throw blankets, wall hangings, etc. The making of this African delight involves numerous long series of dyeing processes and its motifs are simple but purely authentic. The end product is on- of-its-kind. During the dyeing process, fermented mud plays a significant role in shaping its identity and thus, the name mud cloth comes to it naturally. With its background story of creativity, history and community, it makes for an impressive gift as well.
Origin and Production
Mud cloth is organically crafted in Mali in West Africa and the main centre of production is in San, a city located in the Ségou Region of Mali. It is also both, bògòlanfini and bogolan in the Bambara language of Mali. Bògò means “earth” or “mud,” lan means “with,” or “by means of”; and fini means “cloth.” The name itself reinstates the fact that this cloth is made by the help of earth or mud. The art of creating mud cloth is as old and significant as basket weaving in Africa. It has come to be an expression of ethnic identity as well as a fashion statement. To create these fabrics, it takes around two to three weeks. A minimum of two or three coats of colour-rich mud or sludge is usually applied to the undyed cloth. Initially, the men used to weave the cloth and the women would dye it. These days simplified and faster techniques are also being used to mass produce bògòlanfini for tourists and export markets.
The process is as follow. First, coarse and hand-spun cotton strips are woven and stitched into bigger cloths. Then the bigger piece is soaked in a dye bath which is made from leaves of the n’gallama tree. It is sundried until it takes a yellow hue. What follows is the making of patterns. The motifs are painted intricately with a special fermented mud, which is brought from the riverbeds. The mud and the dyed cloth react and a beautiful brown tone settles on the cloth when the mud is washed off.
Motifs are of interest!
The motifs on the mud cloth are its dominant elements. They may seem simple but have special meanings. Some of the designs and patterns represent historical battles, mythological concepts or Malian proverbs. Some of the minimalist, symbolic designs on the fabric are also believed to be codes of the artisans who make them. Isn’t it interesting? What fun it would be to decode the patterns? Who wants to go shopping right away?
Cultural relevance of Mud cloth for the locals
Mud cloth also has a lot of cultural relevance within the community and are often part of their rituals. It is known to be the cloth of protection. Back home in Mali, they believe that mud cloth absorbs all pain and protects from danger. Hunters wear it during rituals as a protective shield. Also, it is used to wrap women just after child birth.
Organic and sustainable
Mud cloth-inspired textiles are neutral, minimalistic and attractive. What makes them stand out is that they are organic and sustainable. They are naturally made as they are dyed with leaves, barks, plants and mud. The painting is done using a piece of wood or metal and natural colours. Mud cloth is 100 percent cotton and is absolutely friendly to babies, elderlies, plants, pets, etc. Last but not the least, it also represents the ethos of a community and when we buy products made of mud cloth, we truly extend our support to the artisans there in Mali.
Using mud cloth in your home décor
Africa is loved for its creations and mud cloth happens to be one of the most unusual and interesting creations from West Africa. It is acclaimed for its versatile feel, utility and the striking patterns. If you have a simple taste and you care for the environment, this is a pure gem.
This African heritage has been accepted worldwide for use in fashion, fine art, and decoration. The toss pillows, wall hangings, mud cloth-inspired linen napkins, tapestry, mud cloth textile planters, coasters, pillow covers, cushion covers, mud cloth comforter set, Indigo-dyed mud cloth throw blankets, etc are already trending charts in the home décor segment.
Mud cloth has a very earthy feel to it and thus it blends it with both, ethnic and trendy Interiors. The patterns are unique and they look extra rich when used with contemporary linens and designer trends. They are perfect for people who have a flair for nude shades.
Mud cloth infuses a lot of freshness wherever it is used. There is something about its patterns and texture that makes it very attractive and elegant. A combination of black and white or green on white or neutral shades of brown look uber cool. Mud cloth throw pillows never fail to create a style statement. They are versatile and also work well as shower curtains, hamper liners, accent pillows or more.
I hope you are inspired enough to use it in your own house.