The Mystery and Beauty of African Mud Cloth

Ethnic styles in general and African ones in particular are very popular in design today. Many newest trends and ideas in this sphere contain at least one ethnic element like, for instance, a leopard or zebra print. African motives can be seen in everything: furniture, fabrics, decor and accessories. The biggest part of these things is an imitation, though made to look geninune. 

How It Is Woven

It is possible to find something authentic that will bring in the true spirit of this continent and its peoples. For example, it can be mud cloth from Africa or bògòlanfini in its native Malian language. This cloth is well known all around the world because of its original style and special manufacturing method. The cloth is made of pure cotton that has no specific color before being dyed. According to the local tradition, this cloth is woven by men only. Women’s duty is to dye and paint. It is made out of rather narrow stripes that are later stitched into pieces of cloth. They are usually three feet wide and about five feet long.

The Process of Dyeing

A simple African bagWhen the cloth is ready for dyeing, it is put into large vessels filled with specially processed leaves of a certain tree. Their juice and natural dyes give the cloth a rich yellow hue. The fabric gets dried up in the sun and only then it is possible to start decorating it with special figures. This is the main part of the process. The colors that can be seen on the decorated mud cloth are derived from the mud dye. It is made of special kinds of mud collected near rivers and in riverbeds. This mud is kept in a clay vessel for a long time – about a year or so. It can be used only after it undergoes a fermentation process. Women apply it onto the cloth with wooden sticks. This dye causes a chemical reaction on the cloth, so even when the mud is washed away, the colours remain. When all the steps of the process are completed, certain parts of cloth are bleached to create white contrasting accents.

Modern Ways of Production

Such cloth can be used for clothing and accessories, and also for making ethnic home designs. Today the production technology has been changed and this cloth can be manufactured way faster, mostly due to ready-made stencils. Large-scale production makes mud clothes significantly cheaper but not as unique as before.

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Posted by on Dec 2 2012. Filed under Shopping and Product Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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