What is Bogolan Fabric?
It’s in the name. The symbols have meanings and tell a story.
Bogolan or Bògòlanfini is handmade in Mali, made of 100% cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud and plant dyes. Bogolan in Bambara refers to Bogo, “mud” or “earth,” and lan, “with” or “by means of.” Therefore, it can also be referred to as Mud cloth. These cloths could take four to seven days to produce one set of Bogolan fabric.
Bogolan cloth is a 100% handmade cotton fabric which may display irregularities in colour or design due to the naturalness of the hand-made work. Each piece of Bogolan is a unique item which will have a visual appeal in your home if used for decoration. It can also be sewn into a distinctive garment.
What steps are required to create a piece of Bogolan fabric?
Creating a piece of Bogolan starts by weaving cotton balls to create threads. The weavers then create 15 cm-wide strips, which are gathered to make a 1-meter-large white sheet.
The cloth is then dyed with African birch leaves, which have been previously picked, dried, and infused in water for 24 hours to create a yellow liquid. Next, the white sheet is dipped in a yellow mixture. Due to the high quantity of iron in the African birch leaves, the white fabric turns yellow and is sent out to dry. This process is repeated several times to generate an intense yellow, as shown in the photo above.
Meanwhile, the fermented clay is prepared. The naturally iron-rich mud is mixed with some millet, which is then applied to the cloth to create a design. At this stage, the artisan could choose to include different natural colours.
A chemical reaction happens between the clay and the fabric, and everything painted with this clay turns black once the mud is washed off. The remaining yellow parts can be cleaned with a solution created from soap and bleach, and the Bogolan is finally wholly washed out and dried.
Bogolan has an essential place in Malian culture. It is a traditional craft that could be used for clothes or home decoration
Traditionally Bogolan was a source to tell stories, transmit moral advice or bring protection to the person wearing it. “Each of the symbols was used as a language, a silent language in a society where silence was valued as a quality.”
How do you clean Bogolan?
It is, however, a delicate fabric. It can be washed gently by hand in cold water with mild detergent without much colour loss. However, dry cleaning is preferable as the dyes are natural and may wash out over time. Another technique to clean Bogolan cloth is adding half a cup of white vinegar into the washing, which will lessen the colour loss and avoid needing to take the fabric for dry cleaning. We highly recommend washing it only when necessary.