THE MUD RESIST CLOTH OF THE BAMBARA, MALI
Commonly known as Mud cloth, the Bogolan cloth or Bogolanfini is a mud resist dyed cotton cloth produced by the women of the Bambara of Mali. The literal translation is: bogo meaning “earth” or “mud”; lan, “with” or “by means of”; and fini, “cloth”. The mud resist cloth was produced for symbolic and practical use in important life events by women who passed the tradition down from mother to daughter.
The “fini” or cloth of the Bogolan is traditionally hand spun cotton which is woven by hand in strips of various sizes and sewn together as required, most commonly into finished pieces of four by six feet. First the cloth is soaked in a natural mordant solution derived from local plant extract which turns the cloth yellow. Designs are created in negative using a carved piece of wood or bamboo to apply a ‘resist’ made of mud harvested from the river banks and then fermented in clay pots. When the design is complete the cloths are sundried and then thoroughly washed to remove the mud. This process would need to be repeated several times due to the instability of the natural materials used, which demand multiple applications to render the desired intensity of hue. When this is reached a caustic solution is used to remove all residue and to brighten the Background.
The Bogolanfini has become an important symbol of Malian cultural identity which has gained widespread global Popularity. Contemporary cloth is produced by both women and men for the local and international Market, being taught traditionally and at national arts acadamies.
Featured Image: Mudcloth example, via of Smithsonian’s Discovering Mudcloth exhibit