Also known as Bògòlanfini or bogolan, Mud Cloth is a beautifully textured Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud. The fabric is very important in traditional Malian culture and has more recently become a symbol of Malian cultural identity. Traditionally men weave the cloth on narrow looms. Each piece is around 15cm wide and the strips are then stitched together to make a bigger cloth. The women take care of the dying process. This is long and involved with the fabric first being steeped in a dye bath made from mashed, boiled and soaked leaves. This renders the fabric a yellow colour and it is then sun dried and painted with intricate traditional designs using a piece of metal or wood. The painting is done with a mud mixture which is where the cloth gets its name from. The mud is collected from river beds and fermented before being ready to use. A reaction between the mud and the cloth turns the fabric a brown colour. The yellow dye is removed from the unpainted parts rendering these areas natural.
Bogòlanfini cloth is great camouflage and is worn by hunters and also at cultural ceremonies. Traditionally, women are wrapped in Bògòlanfini after their initiation into adulthood and immediately after childbirth, as the cloth is believed to have the power to absorb the dangerous forces released under such circumstances. Bògòlanfini patterns are rich in cultural significance and this fabric has become a symbol of Malian cultural identity and is being promoted as such by the Malian government. More and more Bogòlanfini cloth is being used in fashion and in art. The designs can be seen interpreted on a wide range of products from coffee mugs to the covers of notebooks.
Artisans & Adventures co-founder, Bee Friedmann, sourced our Bogòlanfini cloth during a trip to Senegal from our friend Jean Pierre whom we have been working with for quite some time. Jean Pierre works closely with artisans coming from Mali to sell their wares. Travel to Mali has been unadvisable for some time so it would not be possible to travel there to work directly with the artisans. Jean Pierre has helped us in the past source fabrics for our sister brand Hiro + Wolf and we have built up a great relationship with him and his family.
Bee has spent time in Dakar with Jean Pierre getting to know him and his family (pictured below) and being introduced to the many artisanal works of art from this region of Africa.