Thursday, 19 March 2015

Muddy in Mullumbimby

I've been offline for the past two weeks because I have been up in Mullumbimby on the NSW north coast participating in two workshops run by Aboubakar Fofana.
Aboubakar in our Mullumbimby workshop
Aboubakar is a calligrapher, artist, textile designer and graphic designer born in Bamako, Mali but has lived for most of his life in Paris. He is well known for his work with mud-cloth and indigo, which he studied for many years with Japanese master dyer Akiyama Masakazu in Japan.  He now divides his time between Paris, Tokyo and Bamako as he strives to revitalise the lost art of natural dyeing and indigo in his home-country.
The first workshop was on Mud Cloth, or Bogolanfini which is created by using a mud that is high in iron to permanently stain the cloth. Traditionally this textile was worn as a type of camouflage by Malian hunters, and the patterns are rich in cultural significance. Aboubakar always starts off his mud cloth workshops with his favourite talisman of the fish.
Aboubakar demonstrates how to apply the mud to the cloth

There are several steps to achieving this very earthy, primitive cloth.  Firstly the fabric must be prepared by soaking it in a tannin rich broth made from the n'gallama tree.  Aboubakar prefers the hand spun and handwoven cotton fabric from Mali, and we each received a small piece to try first.  Once the fabric has been prepared and dried, the mud is mixed for application.
Mixing the mud to the right consistency
The mud is extremely smelly as it is taken from the bottom of the river at certain times of the year and stored so that it continues to ferment. In this way it is a 'living' colour, very similar to the fermented indigo vats that Aboubakar prefers to work with. The mud can be applied with a paintbrush, stick or even stencilled, and I decided to make a number of small pieces of cloth using the mud in different ways instead of one large project like everyone else.
Some of my mud cloth experiments
Many of the workshop participants made some beautiful and unique textiles as wraps, scarves and even a skirt, and here are some of the results:
Becci with her lovely mandala fabric, handpainted
Becci working on a scarf with Rebecca and Janie in the background
Once the mud is applied to the cloth it is dried and then 'scrubbed' in the air to release the mud.  Once all the mud has been dusted off then it is put into cold water and scrubbed again to get rid of any excess.  The cloth can be washed and dried and then re-tanned for further applications of mud.  Each mud application makes the colour darker, and you can start to build up many layers of varying shades of the mud to enhance your designs.
I will post an article about the indigo workshop in the next day or so.  It was a great experience to work with such a professional and passionate advocator for natural dyeing and the lost textile arts of Mali.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like an amazing two weeks immersed in your passion, natural dying! What a great experience. Look forward to seeing what you do with your "pieces".