Barkcloth

barkcloth

The Baganda people of southern Uganda have been crafting this botanical-based textile since ancient times.


The barkcloth is created by harvesting the inner bark of the Motuba tree after which it is softened by being boiled in water and then pounded with heavy wooden mallets until it is thin, soft and wide enough; the cloth is then sundried, bringing out a terracotta colour.


This fabric which once served as raiment exclusively for royalty quickly became a form of currency as it was traded as demand rapidly grew, thus enriching the Buganda kingdom. As trade flowed, the barkcloth became a common, everyday cloth worn by everyone.


In the modern-day, the barkcloth has appeared in industrial mass production such as car gear sticks and furniture; in architecture as interior wall linings, and of course in fashion for the production of shoes, bags and clothing.


Fashion designers such as Bobby Kolade have taken a keen interest in this special cloth, creating luxury clothing pieces, each with its own unique look as no bark cloth can look the same; the places where branches or limbs once grew are the weakest parts of the fabric and are prone to tearing, thus careful creative stitching is added on these parts.