Mud Cloth

Bogolanfini = Mudcloth
Bogo = clay, mud
lan = result of
Fini = cloth

Bogolanfini is a technique historically used by the Bamana women in Mali, West Africa, to dye cloth for important life occasions. The cloth is locally grown, spun and woven cotton – the dyestuff is mud collected from the Niger River – the tannin is from the leaves or bark of several bushes/trees. The finished product is a white symbolic design on a black background.

There are a whole slew of variables that make the process work perfectly in Mali. Those same variables make it difficult, if not impossible, to follow the process exactly anywhere else.

The modified version of bogolanfini that I have devised produces cloth that is similar – in that it uses the color from mud to dye the cloth – but certainly not the same.

There is an ongoing debate about the use of the terms ‘bogolanfini’ vs. ‘mudcloth’ – who should use them and when and why. As she cannot duplicate the process, I refer to my work as mudcloth, leaving bogolanfini to be used by those who practice the original, traditional process.
A bibliography and some links will be listed in the future for you to research the discussion.

In the meantime, enjoy the work that is currently posted! (The first two photos below show original Mali work.)

2 Replies to “Mud Cloth”

  1. Judy,
    I took your mud cloth dyeing a couple years ago in Rochester NY through Weavers Guild of Rochester. I dyed my raw silk cloth at the workshop and have let it cure for several years. I would like to wash it and make use of the fabric. Please give me the instructions on how I can wash the fabric and hopefully maintain the design. I would really appreciate your expertise. Thank you.
    Margie Finn

    1. Hey, Margie! Mea culpa about so slow in getting back to you! I have not been the best at keeping up with this blog – so sorry! (Hmmmm, I may have answered you earlier privately, but certainly not via the blog!)

      I would suggest soaking your mudded cloth first in cold water to soften any surface dirt, then either hand rinse it or put it through the washer – with maybe a bit of baby shampoo – and drier. After a couple years, you won’t be stopping any dyeing process. What remains is all that you could possibly get based on the muds, soy milk and thickness of solution. Maybe take a picture before soaking and then after drying so you will be able to compare the before and after. Got my fingers crossed for you!

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