The making of barkcloth has been a part of Ugandan culture for centuries. It is a sacred fabric which defines the spirit of the Buganda kingdom. Barkcloth remains a ceremonial dress code for royalty, chiefs, and heirs during coronations and funerals. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has named it among the world’s collective heritage.
The art of making barkcloth is slowly disappearing to the modern conveniences of the twenty-first century. Barkcloth is harvested from the mutuba tree and does not harm the tree. The bark of the tree regenerates and can be harvested repeatedly over dozens of years. It is a great example of an environmentally-friendly, renewable material.
This unique fabric can be incorporated into many modern uses, including fashion, accessories, housewares, interior design, and art. The vision is to create sustainable jobs in Uganda by creating a global demand for barkcloth.
This video documents the process of making barkcloth. The slideshow provides some ideas of finished products made from barkcloth.
The University of North Texas did a fantastic exhibition featuring Ugandan barkcloth that took place March 1 through March 26, 2011. For more information, click Ugandan Bark Cloth Exhibition Highlights Sustainable Art.
UPDATE: START Journal of Arts and Culture based in Kampala, Uganda did a great interview with the curator of the exhibition. Click the link below to read the article.
UPDATE: Jamati interviewed me about my interest in Ugandan barkcloth. Click the link below to read the article.