August 21, 2013


A Closer Look at Bògòlanfini (Mud Cloth)

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Bògòlanfini, popularly known as mud cloth, is made by the Bamana people of southwestern Mali. The Bamana are a village based society mainly consisting of farmers, though textile artists are one of many “craft castes” that one is born into. Cotton cloth woven into strips by men is decorated in symbolic geometric patterns by women by a several-stage discharge method using mud, bark and vegetable dyes. 

The many stages of dyeing and washing sets the pigment and traditionally was also seen as a way to imbue the cloth with protective power, known as nyama. The cloth was made as wrappers around five feet in length and wrapped around girls to protect them during their initiation ceremonies into adulthood. After this use, it would be presented to the girl’s elderly sponsor, who may be wrapped in at her death to contain the nyama released. Another traditional use was as tunics worn to protect hunters and warriors.

Bògòlanfini created international interest when it was introduced into the fashion design world in the early 1980s by young Malian designer Chris Seydou. Artists continue to update the tradition today, introducing more colors and larger, bolder designs for the local and international market.

I've kept some of the mud cloth as pure textiles, but have turned some into feather-filled pillows. See the entire bògòlanfini collection here.

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