Malian Mudcloth (In Your Backyard)

By freshlyplanted - 2:36 PM

Malian Mudcloth

Here's a great, messy activity to embrace while summer is still around- and put your mud pit to artistic use! People have always looked to their natural environment for artistic inspiration, and mud's been a widely available medium to create artworks with. It's been used to make sculptures- clay is essentially mud- and also to create pigments with. There's a whole family of "earth pigments" that are still used today, including yellow ochre, sienna & umbre. Mud is also used in Mali to create the traditional cloth Bògòlanfini

Women paint designs onto cloth using special fermented mud, let it dry in the sun, then wash it away to reveal the dyed design. While I would love to experiment with cloth someday, we started out by painting on paper for now. First we talked about Mali cloth, then I taped up easel paper along our back fence right next to our mud pit. 
African Art in Your Backyard
African Art in Your Backyard
It didn't take long for Isia & Billy to get comfortable with putting mud onto paper! They especially enjoyed using their hand-prints, oohing & awing when their little prints were left behind. 

African Art in Your Backyard
African Art in Your Backyard
African Art in Your Backyard
Aren't they so much fun? I would love to repeat this (when they're a bit older than a toddler & preschooler) and see if they can paint in their picture the traditional Malian way- painting the background and leaving the design in the unpainted areas. In the meantime, it was fun to paint with our mud pit and learn a little bit about African art. Win win! 

Further study for older kids:
*Experiment with different muds from different parts of your yard & neighborhood. How do they look similar/different as they dry?
*Paint with mud onto a clean, white cloth and let it dry in the sun as they do in Mali. Rinse it out & see what colors remain. Repeat, painting over your first design, for darker results.
*A beautiful online exhibit of contemporary Mudcloth artists from the Smithsonian Institute.


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