Mud cloth also known as, bògòlanfini or bogolan; is a handmade + hand dyed 100% cotton textile originating from Mali. Traditionally woven by the men; where they weave narrow strips of the cotton textile, which are then sewn together creating a larger textile, and finally painted/dyed by the women using organic materials.
Each pattern and design have special meaning depending on the region, ethnic group + individual. Each one truly has a story to tell based on the symbols and designs used! Below are a few examples of patterns and their tended meaning.
This design represents a bed of bamboo and millet leaves.
“The Brave Man's Belt” This pattern is worn to signify that the wearer is brave and fearless. It is a representation of a belt that warriors used to wear before going out to battle.
Iguana’s elbow. A very common pattern. This may represent good fortune as an iguana can lead a hunter to water. The iguana is also symbolic of African born people in warfare with foreign powers.
This design represents a crocodiles fingers
This pattern means wealth and luxury. It is supposed to represent the cushions of rich women from the Mauritania area. These women are considered very wealthy.
This design represents the spindle. A very old and traditional design.
“Wosoko” This pattern has a unique story behind it. A farmer had a sickle he particularly liked. It worked well for him and he thought it deserved its own pattern. This pattern is named after the back of the sickles blade.
This is another very popular pattern that represents the flower of the calabash.
Indigo fabric is one of the most popular fabrics of Africa. Symbolic of wealth and prosperity, this fabric is admired by many different cultures in Africa. The Tuareg have been called the “purple nomads” because of their extensive use of this cloth.
The indigo process is long and complex. The cotton fabric is first hand woven on looms and then dyed using fresh green leaves from the indigo plant. The leaves are beat out into a pulp, rolled into balls, and then left to dry in the sun for two to three days. They are then mixed in an ash and water solution that has been fermented for two to three days to form a fixative for the indigo dye. The fabric is then dyed using the tie dye or plain print method, excess dye is removed by hammering the fabric with rubber mallets. Indigo dye is known for rubbing off on the skin. Do not be surprised if, when handling this fabric, your skin is dyed the rich blue color of indigo. This popular African fabric is sure to make a striking statement of African beauty and culture however it is used.
HOW TO CARE FOR AFRICAN MUD CLOTH
Care Instructions: Only wash when absolutely necessary! Use chemical free soap (such as Castile Soap) and cold water. Submerge your Mud cloth, gently stirring, let sit for about 5 mins. Remove Mud cloth and GENTLY ring out excess water. Hang dry or lay flat. Iron on back of fabric, on (low) cotton setting if needed.
Tip - to help "set" color ( more specifically for Indigo) and reduce fading/transferring, you can add a small amount of vinegar to the water while washing.
Please note - all information is sourced from Africa Imports