The Barkcloth
In many parts of Uganda, especially Buganda, the barkcloth has historical, traditional and spiritual values. To the Baganda, it is a major link to the spiritual world. Traditionalists also wear it when communicating with the kabaka. Barkcloth is a must-have during ancestral worship because, as the Baganda believe, it appeases the gods to pour out their blessings. In Buganda, it is also used when initiating twins into a family.
In Buganda, a dead persons status was measured by the pieces of barkcloth he or she was wrapped in.
Although almost 80% of the barkcloth today in Buganda is used for burial, barkcloth has many other uses. They use it at the coronation of princes, during these ceremonies the new king wears a barkcloth at various proceedings to observe the tradition and ritual. In many kingdoms, heirs are also enthtroned with ceremonial barkcloth. the barkcloth is worn up to the ankle, with a sash around the waist for women.

Barkcloth making process
The barkcloth is made from a variety of fig trees localy known as (mituba) Ficus natalensis the Baganda are particulary careful when growing mutuba due to the religious significance they attach to the barkcloth, the tree is not cut down, it is protected and wrapped to heal faster after debarking.
The skill of making barkcloth involves cutting and removing the outer bark of the tree. The bark is alternatively beaten with grooved wooden mallets to make it thin and flexible it is then put out to dry and become cloth-like.
Pummering thins the bark and spreads it out by compressing the intertwined fibres. After the barkcloth has been pounded, it becomes uniformly thin-four to six times thinner than its original width and half times longer than its original length.

Artist Eddie Bbira started using the barkcloth six years ago as a support material for his paintings with accrylic paint. He explores the rich texture,redish-brown colour and the holes and tears that he neatly patches up with banana fibre thread to creat two dimensional paintings.

Register for the forthcoming Barkcloth Making Workshops and explore the rich and unique quality of the barkcloth as vehicle for your creative activities.
Barkcloth making was discovered as early as the 16th century, according to oral tradition one Wamala of Ngonge clan invented the skill on a hunting spree in a forest. Join us as we pass on this noble invention and indigenous knowledge to the future generations.

Workshop Dates
Saturday 26 April 2008
Saturday 26 July 2008