African Mudcloth

Mud cloth is a handmade Malian cotton fabric. The cloth is dyed with a type of mud that has been stored and fermented for many months.  The traditional production process begins with pre-soaking the fabric in boiled leaves of a native tree which turns the cloth yellow.  After drying, designs are stenciled into the cloth with wood pieces and the cloth is dyed with the fermented mud.  Once the mud touches the cloth, a chemical reaction takes place which permanently dies the cloth and allows the color to stay even after washing the cloth of mud and dirt.  Lastly, the yellow leaf dye is bleached off, creating strong contrasts between the remaining white sections of the cloth and mud-dyed sections.

Usually patterned with historical or mythological references (the crocodile is a common theme), or traditional cultural proverbs, the fabric is believed by the Malian people to absorb evil spirits and bad forces, and is used accordingly in various ceremonies and rituals, including for hunting and childbirth.