Mudcloth – Brown
Handmade Malian cotton fabric dyed with fermented mud. It has an important place in traditional Malian culture and has more recently become a symbol of Malian cultural identity.
In traditional mudcloth production, men weave the strips of cotton on narrow looms and women dye it. 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.