Papaya Diaries is an online interior boutique with a selection of natural, organic, cotton fabrics (mud cloths) in earthy colours. All products are handmade in Africa according to traditional production techniques and in harmony with nature. Each fabric is named after an African saying or value, in Swahili or Zulu.
The mud cloths function well as plaids, bedspreads, wall hangings or cushions. You may find imperfections in the weaving or designs, which makes each product unique.
All items in the webshop are made by young, African artisans who work for a social enterprise in Mali. This social enterprise was created to address the problem of youth unemployment amongst young Africans who did not have the chance to go to school and study. They are trained to become artisans and learn about natural coloring techniques, cultural heritage and the ecological footprint of products. They also participate in a ‘school of life’, aimed at educating them on life essentials such as the importance of pension savings and building homes for local community members. The artisans are provided with a health fund and are paid a decent wage.
I would like you to feel inspired by their creativity and style. I hope you will share with me the love for design, African heritage and artisan empowerment. And I am excited for these products to elevate your homes and bring in exotic vibes.
Origin of mud cloths
A mud cloth is a handmade cotton fabric from Mali, dyed with fermented mud. This type of African cloth has a rich history and meaning, and I love to tell you more about its origins.
The mud cloth finds its origins in the landlocked country of Mali, in the Western Sahara region. The term is loosely translated from Bambara, the language spoken in Mali. Bogolanfini – as it is called in Bambara – combines three root words: “bogo” (earth or mud), “lan” (with), and “fini” (cloth).
The origins of the mud cloth can be traced to the 12th century. The process of creating mud cloths involves several steps, including weaving the cotton fabric and applying natural dyes and mud-based pigments. Traditionally, women have been the custodians of mud cloth production. They would weave narrow strips of cotton and stitch them together to form larger fabrics. Before applying the natural dye, the mud cloths would be soaked in water and leaves to help the fabric absorb the dye more evenly. The fabrics were then decorated with a special pigment made from fermented mud, collected from nearby riverbeds. After the mud had dried on the fabric, it would be ready for the dye bath. Once the desired color was achieved, the fabrics got washed over and over again to get rid of the excess mud. The fabrics were then traditionally dried in the sun, which helps to set the colors and remove any remaining impurities. Finally, the result is a characteristic fabric with a rich palette of earthy white, beige and brown tones. The entire process of creating a much cloth is labor-intensive and could take up to several weeks to complete.
Mud cloths hold a significant place in African cultures. The patterns applied on mud cloths hold significant cultural and symbolic meaning. The designs were often passed on from mother to daughter through generations, and could represent many things. In tribal cultures, the cloths were believed to have protective properties and the power to absorb dangerous forces. Traditionally, the fabrics were worn by hunters for camouflage, and women were wrapped in Bogolanfini after giving birth.
Taking good care of your mud cloth is essential to maintain their quality and longevity. Remember that mud cloth fabrics are unique and handcrafted, and some natural fading or variations in color are part of their charm. With proper care, you can enjoy your mud cloth fabrics for years to come. So here is a care guide:
Washing: mud cloths are generally not colorfast, so it is recommended to wash it by hand and separately from other garments. Use a mild detergent, and avoid bleach or harsh chemicals. Rinse thoroughly with cool water until the water runs clear.
Drying: gently squeeze out excess water without wringing or twisting the fabric. Lay the mud cloth flat on a clean towel and roll it up to absorb more moisture. Unroll the towel and lay it flat to air dry in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight.
Ironing: mud cloths can be ironed on the reverse side using a medium to low heat setting (avoid using steam).
Spot cleaning: in case of small stains or spills, try to spot clean the affected area by blotting the stain with a clean cloth, using a mild detergent diluted in water. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing, as it can damage the painted designs.
Professional cleaning: if your mud cloth fabric is heavily soiled or stained, it is best to consult a professional dry cleaner who has experience with delicate fabrics.