SUSTAINABLE FABRIC ART FROM ANCIENT AFRICA
Hello There! Before getting to the post I just want to share the happiness I am feeling that my blog is actually serving the purpose it was started with. We keep discussing about heritage and art here at obsidian space and the readers are seriously getting involved in this through comments, mails, messages and more. The motive is to keep the dying art alive, to promote sustainable living, to celebrate the folk art and to encourage people and local artisans. May be at a very very micro level, but at least we are doing something in this direction. I thank you all for stopping by and coming along. Thank you all.
So, today we have something from Africa… an art from mud, something which is Ancient- Indigenous- Sustainable. Known with names like “BOGOLAN” or Bògòlanfini means “MUD CLOTH” is a type of sustainable fabric from Mali, Africa. It is handmade traditional cotton fabric which is dyed with natural dyes or mud, then painted many times over with designs and patterns.
“bògòlanfini” IN LITERAL TERMS:
The word “bògòlanfini” comes from the Bambara language (national language of Mali) meaning –
- BÒGÒ – Earth or Mud
- LAN – With or “By means of”
- FINI – Cloth
In general it is referred to the “mud cloth” which is handspun and handwoven. The clay with a high iron content produces a black pigment when applied to such cotton textiles to create beautiful patterns.
Bògòlanfini – THE “MUD CLOTH”:
The center of production for best quality African fabric is in San, a city located in the Ségou Region of Mali. This indigenous textile art is continued within generations in Mali. This amazing African heritage became popular and accepted worldwide as “MUD CLOTH”. The bold geometric patterns, eye-catchy earthy tones and eco-friendly concept make it distinctive and readily transformable into modern twists.
Earlier, bogolan was used for religious purposes and in specific rituals in Africa. The cloth still is made and used in its original contexts, but it became more famous among outsiders in last few decades. The design is evolved in new forms which open its door to the international market. Particularly in North America, the Bogolan is available in a wide range of products,there this textile is marketed as “mud cloth.”
DISPLAYING AFRICAN CULTURAL IMPORTANCE:
This kind of textile productions have always been an important place of traditional Malian culture. Bogolan is a reflection of their ancient African rituals as:
- African hunters wore bògòlanfini which served as camouflage in Jungles.
- The cloth served as a badge of status in Mali.
- Women are wrapped in bògòlanfini after their initiation into adulthood.
- Women wore bògòlanfini immediately after childbirth, as the cloth is believed to absorb the dangerous forces released under such circumstances.
- The patterns on the cloth is made with mud and depicts historical events like the famous battle between a Malian warrior and the French.
- Patterns also display objects of cultural importance, African myths and proverbs.
Since about 1980, bògòlanfini has become a symbol of Malian cultural identity and is being promoted as such by the Malian government. Here is the picture from 50th Years of Promoting Peace & Friendship Craft Demonstrations of Malian Mud Cloth at National Mall, Washington DC .
PROCESS OF MAKING THE “Bogolan” cloth :
The fabric is sustainable and totally eco friendly. The patterns are made with natural dyes or mud painted multiple times to create bold earthy tones. Traditionally, women were involved in dying and men into weaving for producing native Bogolan cloth.
The making of bogolan requires both technical knowledge and mastery of the symbols. The process begins with:
- MAKING THE FABRIC – The strips of cotton fabric are woven in narrow looms and stitched into clothes about 1 meter (3 feet) wide and 1.5 meters (5 feet) long.
- THE DYEING PROCESS – The cloth being soaked in a dye bath made from mashed and boiled, or soaked, leaves of the n’Sgallama tree (Anogeissus leiocarpa).
- DRYING – Once it has taken on a yellow hue, the cloth is sun-dried and then painted with designs using a piece of metal or wood.
- THE MUD – The paint, is made of a special mud, collected from riverbeds and fermented for up to a year in a clay jar. Due to a chemical reaction between the mud and the dyed cloth, the brown color remains after the mud is washed off.
- FINAL PROCESS – The yellow n’gallama dye is removed from the unpainted parts of the cloth by applying soap or bleach, rendering them white.
- After prolonged use, the very dark brown color turns a variety of rich tones of brown, while the unpainted underside of the fabric retains a pale russet color.
Traditional bògòlanfini designs have undergone modern revival coming out from the fabric. The patterns are now available in range of commercial products, such as apparels, miniskirts, jackets, flowing robes, coffee mugs, curtains, towels, sheets, book covers, paintings and wrapping paper.
With time the technique is introduced in styles of fine arts by Malian artists, particularly the Groupe Bogolan Kasobané. They promoted paintings inspired from Bògòlanfini made with vegetable dyes (PLANT BASED PIGMENTS AND DYES) and mud but feature designs different from those of traditional fabrics. The new motifs gave a fresh approach to the ancient mud cloth readily acceptable in modern markets.
When the art is globalized, the production was required at larger scale. Mopti and Djenné town, an urban commune in Mali, the bògòlanfini is produced at large scale. They adopt different process of production which is simpler and easy for bulk production for the tourist and foreign markets.
The cotton cloth is first dyed yellow in wolo solution made from the leaves of Terminalia avicennioides (Bambara: Wolobugun) and fabric is then painted over with black designs. The yellow is then removed, producing the black and white design, or painted a deep orange with a solution from the bark of M’Peku (Lannea velutina).
These fabrics use simpler designs, often applied by stencil and painted in black on a yellow or orange background. With this method, the cloth can be produced about six to seven times faster. Most of the textile is now produced by men rather than women, and the traditional year-long trainings have been replaced by short, informal training sessions.
The Malinese government promotes bògòlanfini production for export purposes especially to the United States. The Malian fashion designer Chris Seydou is worth mentioning here known for his efforts for popularizing bògòlanfini in international fashion.
The mud textile is exquisite, carrying all the ethnicity and ancient heritage within it and thus surely the Bogolan textile will find a better position in international market in the coming years.
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