Bogolanfini or Bogoan (mud cloth) is handmade Malian cotton fabric dyed with fermented mud! Traditionally men wove the cloth and woman dyed it although in today's economic climate men have taken over the majority of the process.
The fabric is woven on narrow looms and then pieced together to create full cloths. In the below detail shot you can see the individual strips and the wonderful texture of the course cloth. The hourglass symbolizes "time will tell".
The cloth is first soaked in a dye bath made from mashed and boiled leaves of the n'gallama tree which turns the cloth yellow. The mud is collected from riverbeds and fermented at times for up to a year.The designs are added by carefully applying the special mud using a piece of metal or wood. The combination of the mud and cloth creates a chemical reaction so when the mud is washed off the brown color remains.
The final step is to wash off the yellow n'gallama dye from the unpainted parts of the cloth using soap and bleach. Although this cloth doesn't have any white in the design many of the designs incorporate white which is apparent once the cloth is bleached. The Smithsonian Museum has a great mud cloth introduction showing the process - check it out!
To maintain the integrity of my treasured piece of mud cloth I chose to simply create a sleeve on each end to hang as is. I love the cloth and it makes me smile when I think of how it was created and the many hands it took to reach me.
My wonderful piece of mud cloth came from Wendy Mamattah's Esty shop. Wendy has a full line of fabrics she imports directly from Africa. I discovered Wendy due to our mutual love of fabric! She was looking for a piece that reminded her of that special glow of the African sun. Please take a moment to check out Wendy's Etsy shop and her web site at Braid and Stitch.