In our latest Trends Issue94, we recognise hand-dying as one of this year’s top decor trends. We feature the mud cloth designed and produced by Boubacar Doumbia.
Bògòlanfini or bogolan (mud cloth) is a handmade Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud. The cloth is being fast tracked to having ‘trend status’, and is being exported worldwide for use in fashion, fine art and interior decoration.
In traditional bògòlanfini production, men weave the cloth and women dye it. On narrow looms, strips of cotton fabric about 15 centimetres wide are woven and stitched into cloths about 1 metre wide and 1.5 metres long.
The design process begins with a step invisible in the finished product: The cloth is soaked in a dye bath made from mashed and boiled, or soaked, leaves of the n’gallama tree (Anogeissus leiocarpa). Now yellow, the cloth is sun-dried and then painted with designs using a piece of metal or wood. The paint, carefully and repeatedly applied to outline the intricate motifs, is a special mud, collected from riverbeds and fermented for up to a year in a clay jar.
Owing to a chemical reaction between the mud and the dyed cloth, the brown colour remains after the mud is washed off. Finally, the yellow n’gallama dye is removed from the unpainted parts of the cloth by applying soap or bleach, leaving it white.
After time, the dark brown colour turns a variety of rich tones of brown, while the unpainted underside of the fabric retains a pale russet colour.
Boubacar Doumbia’s Le Ndomo textile workshop specialises in natural fabric staining and dyeing techniques such as the traditional Bogolon mud cloth. Doumbia has overhauled the local model of youth apprenticeship by placing young people in a central, entrepreneurial role. Rather than training students in textile production, he teaches them professional life skills, encouraging them to become self-sufficient, independent, creative, and innovative.
In traditional Malian culture, bògòlanfini is worn by hunters, serving as camouflage, as ritual protection and as a badge of status. Women are wrapped in bògòlanfini after their initiation into adulthood and immediately after childbirth.
The artist,Ismaël Diabaté, has played a huge role in promoting mudcloth around the world. He incorporates bogolan with contemporary mediums to create his art pieces. “I use bógólinfini to draw Malians back into their own culture… to bring something new to international contemporary art,” he explains his choice of medium on Discovering Mudcloth. Read more about the painter here.
Are you hooked? You can get beautiful pieces of mud cloth from LIM on Kloof Street, Cape Town.