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!