You may have seen this design in myriads of places or may even own a couple f items with this design, but do you really know what it is? Let’s talk mud!
Mud cloth, traditionally known as Bògòlanfini is vintage African fabric that originates from West Africa, Mali to be exact. In the Bambara language, the word Bògòlanfini is a composite of three words; Bògò which means ‘earth/mud’, lan which means ‘by means of’ and fini which means ‘cloth’. It is centuries old, so although it might be trending now, it is nothing new.
The traditional way in which this fabric is prepared is a beautiful preservation of Malian culture and bring about great appreciation for the fabric:
For one, it is prepared by both men and women. The men weave the cloth and the women do the dyeing job. The cloth is first soaked in a bath that contains leaves and branches of the Leiocarpa tree until it turns yellow. Once yellow, the cloth is left out in the sun to dry then painted on using mud. It’s not just any mud but that which is collected during the previous year from riverbanks and left to ferment. The painstaking process is repeated various time until it turns to the desired black/brown colour.
The patterns and symbol on the cloths were not just for beauty purpose but were also codes and symbols of communication for the people who made them.
Today, mud cloth has been brought to the international stage and can be found in the top magazines and fashion runways. The older, traditional patterns have been simplified and are now being used on western clothes. If you own anything with a mud cloth pattern, it’s probably because you have a keen eye for beautiful things and if you own actual mud cloth fabric, you have a great understanding of the intersectionality of beauty and culture.