So, when I was raiding my mother’s closet I came across a textile that (to a fairly novice person like me) looked like a modern Malian mud cloth (Bògòlanfini) – the black, white and rust colours are popular to mud cloth; the zig-zag pattern seemed familiar to mud cloth; the designs were painted onto the fabric also like mud cloth. But to my surprise my mother revealed this to be a Sierra Leone textile which she got as a gift in 1996/97 from some friends in Freetown.
Unlike mud cloth which gets its colour and design through a process known as ‘discharge’ dye (pretty much the opposite of resist dyeing), this Sierra Leone cloth used dyes based on kola nuts and brown leaves!
Kola nut (Cola nitida), a nut widely traded throughout West Africa and chewed as a stimulant is used to produce orange/brown colours in many West African textiles. (A bit of trivia for you – the cola nitida nut was also exported to Britain in the 1890s and later America where it became one of the key ingredients in “Coca-Cola” – it is now no longer used in “Coca-Cola” drinks).
The Sierra Leone textile of my mother’s is a type of country cloth that was woven on a narrow loom. I am not too sure how common it is to paint designs on after the cloth has been woven, when I was searching around on the internet most examples of Sierra Leone country cloth I seemed to find got their design during the weaving process – different coloured cotton threads was used to give rise to the various designs. If any of you know, please let me know as I’d love to find out!