The Magic of Mudcloth
Bogolanfini or Mudcloth is a traditional cotton fabric that is dyed with natural plant dyes and fermented mud from the Niger River in Mali where the river flows gently and is verdant and healthy. AAFRICAA has sourced two types of Mud Cloth cushions – both originate in Mali. The base cloth for both is made from strips of hand-spun cotton woven on small portable looms. The strips are then sewn together in lengths before dyeing.
Made in the traditional way, each skein of mudcloth takes between four days and a week of preparation – a process of dipping, dyeing, and drying between each dip. The dye is a fermentation of leaves from the n’gallama tree and initially creates a pale yellow that gradually deepens to create terracotta colours or a darker yellow for black. Patterns are then drawn onto the cloth with a white resin and at the final stage the whole cloth is covered in a thick layer of fine and viscous, fermented river mud. The cloths are laid out to dry in the sun and then washed off to reveal either the terracotta and white or a black and white patterned cloth.
These days modern methods have been introduced like screen printing – usually on to white base cloth. You can tell the difference because the screen printed or hand painted mud sits more on the surface of the cloth while the traditional Bogolanfini penetrates the fabric.