Our Mudcloth is extremely beautiful, rare, and authentic. It comes from west Mali and has been hand made by Mali’s Baman women. Each mudcloth takes about 3 weeks to make and each one is different from the next. The mudcloth can be used as a wall hanging, blanket, throw, scarf, runner, and anything else that you can think of.
Mudcloth is from West Mali, it is an ancient tradition that was developed centuries ago by Mali’s Baman culture. The cloth is hand made and takes about 3 weeks to make a single mudcloth. Each and every mudcloth is different and each one tells its own unique story. The cotton is bought by the men in the marketplace in long strips. The men then sew the cotton strips of between 5 and 9 together. The cloth is then soaked in water infused with the Baman tree leaves; which enables the fabric to absorb the mud dye. The cloth is then laid out to dry and naturally turns a yellow color. Baman women collect iron rich mud in ponds, this mud is then used to paint the cloth with bamboo strips, sticks, reeds, palm fiber brushes, feathers and other tools, only the background is painted leaving the design untouched. The cloth is then laid out to dry, once it is fully dry the excess mud is washed away. The Mudcloth is then washed again and soaked in solutions made from boiling leaves to enhance the color. The final step of making a Mudcloth is when the artisans add a Sodani ( a caustic soda) to the areas where the mud was not painted. The Sodani bleaches these areas so the design stands out.
The colors of the mudcloth have different meanings and tell different stories. A red rust color on the cloth are used by hunters as a form of strength given by the supernatural powers. The red rust color is also used as camouflage on a hunt and signifies blood. Women wear white on wedding days and ceremonial days. The different patterns on the cloth also stand for different types of wealth: cultural and environmental knowledge, rich from selling, great hunters.
To find out more about Mudcloth and to actually make your own Mudcloth online take a look at the Smithonian ‘African Voices‘ exhibit.