Thursday, March 12, 2015

Decorate: African Indigo Textiles in Interiors

There is no doubt that deep blue indigo is my favorite color. 

I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to this gorgeous and timeless color.

The deep, rich—dare I say moody blue?— color is once again trending in interior design. The beauty of indigo is that it acts like a neutral and pairs well with other colors, such as brown, pink, cream, gray and white.”

Indigo blue and handwoven textiles are a match made in design heaven.

History of African Indigo

Captivating indigo blue has such a rich history that dates back thousands of years. It has been intrinsic to many cultures throughout history and continues to inspire creativity today. African indigo textiles have been studied, collected and exhibited as fine works of art in museums around the world.

Author Catherine LeGrand has a beautiful book titled  Indigo: The Color that Ruled The World that explores the  use of indigo around the world. The book documents the importance of indigo to the practices, culture, art and garments of various communities around the world.

Indigo Dyed Textiles of West Africa

The Dogon people of Mali have a long history of natural indigo blue dyeing, and the color is revered in Dogan culture. The dyeing process is passed down  through family generations.  Archaeological sites in Mali have yielded textile fragments dating as far back as the 11th century. The Yoruba of Nigeria and Mossi of Burkina Faso also have a rich history of indigo dyeing. Other west African countries with a history of indigo dyeing are Guinea, Senegal and Gambia.

Unfortunately natural, traditional indigo dyeing is a dying art form due to the introduction of chemical dyes. Master indigo artists like Aboubakar Fofana have been working on reviving this ancient art form, which you can now only find in remote areas.

How it is Made

Strip weave cloths are typically prepared and dyed by women through a time consuming process. The dyeing takes place in large dye vats, which are partially sunk into the ground. The traditional dye comes from the indigofera plant which grows locally. More recently dyers have  started using imported synthetic dyes.

The indigofera leaves are collected, formed into balls and dried. The indigo balls are then added to water that has alkali (wood ash). The dye bath is then left to ferment. The cloth is prepared by a technique of stitch resist or tie resist pattern dyeing. The prepared cloth is then dipped into the fermented dyed vats and pulled out to allow it to oxidize and take on the bright blue color.  To get a deeper blue, the cloth is repeatedly dipped into the vat. It is then hung to dry.

Get decor  inspired with these indigo looks
Designer Seg Bergamin's home in Elle Decor has some of my favorite uses of indigo in interiors. Next week I will be sharing some of my use of indigo in decorating over on instagram.

Here are some ways that you can incorporate indigo blue into your home

                                   Contemporary indigo pillow by Aboubakar Fofana for Dara Artisans

Hand-Dyed Shibori Sofa via Anthropologie

                                                    Indigo Woven Throw via House & Garden

                                                  Throw Pillow via Amber Interiors

                                             Mali Indigo Cloth via Project Bly

                                                  Vintage Indigo Cloth via The Loaded Trunk

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Textile Love: Malian Mudcloth

Traditional mudcloth, or bogolanfini, is currently trending in home design, and its with good reason too. It’s abstract, geometric and timeless designs mix perfectly with modern furnishings. It is also ethical and authentically African. When we lived in Mali I fell in love with the local traditional handmade textiles, and have since incorporated them into our home.

While I was there I worked with artisans to create clothing and kids nursery decor from handmade cotton fabrics and dyes. You can see some of my mudcloth designs from my “Cotton du Mali” collection here. I haven’t had a chance to go back to Mali yet, but my lucky husband gets to travel there regularly. 

How Mud Cloth Is Made
Making naturally dyed traditional bogolan is a time consuming process. First, the cloth is handwoven by Bamana men into thin strips of cloth on a hand loom. The strips of cotton are then sewn together. The cloth is the dyed by Bamana women with the fermented mud, clay and tree leaves. The whole cloth is first dyed yellow. It is then painted by mud from the local rivers to create the darker areas, and then a caustic solution is used to "discharge" the dye from the lighter areas. The result is bold geometric patterns.

Each of the the geometric patterns of mudcloth  are symbolic and also tell a story. No two pieces of mud cloth are exactly the same.  In traditional Bamana culture, bògòlanfini is worn by hunters, serving as camouflage, as ritual protection and as a badge of status.Women are wrapped in bògòlanfini after their initiation into adulthood and immediately after childbirth.The geometric designs that are created are often stylized forms of animals or other objects from the natural world.

Mud Cloth in Interior Design
Here is some inspiration for incorporating mud cloth into your home. I have a small collection of mudcloth wrappers in my fabric collection. I plan to use some of it to reupholster a chair and make a few mudcloth throw pillows. So keep your eyes open for that!

Urban Renewal Mudcloth Chair via Urban Outfitters

Throw Pillow via Camel and Grey

Bogolan Wrapper via Met Museum

Reupholstered Chair via Need Supply

Draped Bookshelf via Architectural Digest

Mudcloth Draped over Couch via Kirana Perera

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Destination Guide:Things to Do in Chiredzi, Zimbabwe

5 Reasons to Go

  • Enjoy the natural beauty of Malilangwe Forest Reserve
  • Encounter elephants at Gonarezhou National Park
  • Glamp at Singita Pamushana
  • Safari at Chilo Gorge
  • Relax at the Palm Tree Place
Guest writer Gugulethu Nyazema takes us off the beaten path to discover the natural beauty of Chiredzi in southeastern Zimbabwe. Come along and discover why the New York Times included Zimbabwe on its list of 52 Places to Go to In 2015.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Destination Guide to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Are you daydreaming about escaping the cold winter weather for warmer climates? Sure you are.

Then put the majestic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on the top of your getaway list. I shared the highlights of my family's road trip to the falls here. Victoria Falls is at the top of my mind right now as I am planning my family's summer vacation. Did I mention that I'm going home {Zimbabwe} this summer!

The Victoria Falls known locally as Mosi-Oa-Tunya which means "the smoke that thunders". Boy does it thunder especially during the rainy season. This amazing geographic sight is located on the Zambezi river, straddling the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world and the world's largest stretch of uninterrupted falling water.

“Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in their flight” said David Livingstone when he first saw the falls. The beauty of the Falls have since captivated many more visitors. Victoria Falls is actually made up of a series of waterfalls, four of which are on the Zimbabwe side (Devils’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and Horseshoe Falls) and one on the Zambia side (The Eastern Cataract).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Art: Mali before the coup

I was in Cincinnati, Ohio recently for my  husband's cousin's wedding. It was a great family reunion and such a beautiful wedding. The post wedding brunch was at the 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. For anyone planning a wedding in Cincinnati, I highly recommend it. The food was great and so was the artwork.   I was looking at some pictures from Malian photographer Malick Sidibe exhibited at the museum and was transported back to Mali before the coup.  I was reminded of the Recontres de Bamako , the biennial photography festival of African artists that ran from November 1, 2011 to January 1, 2012. The theme of the exhibition was "Pour un monde durable" (for a sustainable world). Here are some of the pictures I took from the exhibit at the Musee National. I've posted mainly the pictures of the archived black and white photos of Malian culture in the 1960s and the mosque architecture of Djenne and Timbuktu.

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