Day one of our textile tour of Kenya.
We had a meeting with the Guild members yesterday and they kindly invited us to lunch at one of the members homes and then we boarded our bus to tour through the most interesting of suburbs to visit craft and fabric venues.
Some of the Kenya Guild members took us to the home of a woman who brings mud cloth from Mali. I thought I had seen mud cloth before, but I was mistaken, I had seen bark cloth.
A trigger of imagination is set in place and I had to find out more about it.
The world boglanfini is a composite meaning “earth’ or ‘mud’. Lan, meaning ‘with’ and “fini” meaning cloth. Although usually translated as “mud cloth,” bogolan actually refers to a clay slip with a high iron content that produces a black pigment when applied to hand spun and handwoven cotton textiles.
In traditional bògòlanfini production, men weave the cloth and women dye it. On narrow looms, strips of cotton fabric about 15 centimetres (5.9 in) wide are woven and stitched into cloths about 1 metre (3 ft) wide and 1.5 metres (5 ft) long
The dyeing (a “strange and cumbersome technique”, begins with a step invisible in the finished product: The cloth is soaked in a dye bath made from mashed and boiled, or soaked, leaves of the n’gallama tree. Now yellow, the cloth is sun-dried and then painted with designs using a piece of metal or wood. The paint, carefully and repeatedly applied to outline the intricate motifs, is a special mud, collected from riverbeds and fermented for up to a year in a clay jar. Thanks to a chemical reaction between the mud and the dyed cloth, the brown color remains after the mud is washed off. Finally, the yellow n’gallama dye is removed from the unpainted parts of the cloth by applying soap or bleach, rendering them white.
After long 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
These were some of the examples of the work our hostess shared.
I was tempted to buy some, however, I know I wouldn’t use it for decoration as a cloth, because it doesn’t fit into our house genre, and on the other hand, I believe that fabric as beautiful as this has a life of its own and needs to be displayed. It would be folded in the special stash and it doesn’t seem right for such glorious fabric to rest that way.
I loved the plain pieces of embossed cotton, that had been heavily waxed. My mind was racing overtime to design something to use it in. I loved a deep brown that looked like leather. It was waxed to a high sheen and I image it would be wonderful for raw edge appliqué. But I didn’t buy it. Once again, I have so many things banked up to do after the Bayeux. I need to be realistic. When I do need it. I know where to buy it.!
These are some of the wonderful bone carvings and traditional Bark cloth I purchased.