Mud cloth (bogolanfini)

Bamana peoples, mid-20th century
From Mali, West Africa

Mud cloths (bogolanfini) are a distinctive fabric made by the Bamana peoples of Mali, West Africa. They are made into men's sleeveless loose tops and women's wrap-around skirts (tafe).

Narrow pieces of cotton cloth are produced on treadle looms worked by men. These strips of cloth are then sewn together by hand to create a complete textile which is then resist-dyed.

The usual method of resist-dyeing in Africa involves sections of material tied, stitched or starched to resist the dye, resulting in sharp contrasts in colour. The Bamana peoples, however, use an unusual method of dyeing. The whole cloth is first dyed yellow. They then paint mud from local rivers onto the cloth to create the darker areas, and use a caustic solution to 'discharge' the dye from the lighter areas. The geometric designs that are created are often stylized forms of animals or other objects from the natural world. The zigzag motif on this cloth is known as 'the legs of a cricket'. Deliberate 'mistakes' in the otherwise regular geometric patterns are thought to represent coded messages.

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More information

Bibliography

J. Picton and J. Mack, African textiles-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)

Dimensions

Length: 136.000 cm
Width: 83.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1956.Af27.10

EAF7778

Gift of Mrs W. Plass

Location

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