Bark cloth is red brown in colour and widely known as OLUBUGO ,It is an important cloth in Buganda kingdom from the central region in Uganda for many different rituals and purposes like bedding, clothing, wrapping in the dead bodies hence showing as a sign of respect, not only overthrowing of the kings from power.
It was started by Wamala Buyingo Kabogozza while was on hunting tour in a forest in Mawokota County during the reign of Late King Kimera. The introduction of cotton cloth by the Arab Caravan Traders, banning of traditional religions by the British and also the 1966 Buganda Crisis affected so much the production of bark cloth in Uganda, but the restoration of Buganda monarchy in early 1990s revived the art of bark cloth in Buganda kingdom.
HOW IS BARK CLOTH HARVESTED AND PROCESSED IN BUGANGA REGION?
If you take a Nature Safaris with Friends Nature Safaris, we can take you through the whole process of making a bark cloth, It is made from the Mutuba tree, each piece of a bark cloth is processed from the outer surface of the tree. During harvesting for the first time, both hand palms and stretched out to measure the circumference of the trunk. This is recommended to debark as leaves turn yellowish but especially rainy season.
The process begins with scraping off external surface layer to expose the fresh raw inner bark. The vertical slit is made with a help of a knife from top to bottom. Then with the help of banana leaf stalk, the bark is peeled off starting from the base slowly moving upwards and exposed area of trunk is smeared with cow dung as a form of treatment then wrap it with fresh banana leaves.
After four days of regeneration, the fresh bark cloth is soaked in hot water for about 30 minutes in order to make it soft then ready for pounding with grooved wooden mallets thus increasing size of the cloth up to four times the original. The bark cloth is pounded until which was 12 inch-wide bark widens to between 2-3 meters inch fabric.
For about 3 days, bark cloth is sundried then turning into a deep red brown colour with distinct smell.
WHAT ARE CULTURAL USES OF THE BARK CLOTH?
Apart from overthrowing of the kings the bark cloth has very many uses both cultural and commercial but this time round we are going to concentrate on the cultural uses.
- The red brown colour of the bark cloth defines the spirit of Buganda.
- It remains a ceremonial dress for royalty, chiefs and heirs during conation and funerals.
- The shrines of Buganda are draped with bark cloth to render a sense of mysticism.
- Ranging in texture from course and thick, finest and light, bark cloth was worn in a style and wrap around Buganda men and women.