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Published: 21 October 2017

By Andy Ross

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Bark cloth from Tanzania

A parcel arrived today; one with a lovely surprise in it. 

A few months back, someone from the Textile Museum in Lerwick, was in at the studio and we were talking about barkcloth. As you will know if you have read the blog for a while, barkcloth is something that intrigues me and we got to talking about a piece that my conversation companion had in her possession. The piece was bought in Tanzania, up at the Ugandan border and it sounded very interesting.

Imagine my surprise and delight when a flat parcel arrived with a superb piece of barkcloth in it! The cloth is made by pounding the bark of a fig tree into a flattened fabric, which is not normally dyed except for royalty, but has a unique look due to the fibrous quality of the bark. This piece is a beautiful rich colour, and it looks and feels very good quality. I am absolutely delighted to have it in the collection. 

Thank you very much to our benefactor. It is a generous, unique gift and has made me very happy on a wild and windy day in Yell!

For more information on barkcloth, albeit Ugandan rather than Tanzanian, have a look at UNESCO's Intangible Heritage page where the craft is recognised as being one of the most "At Risk" in the world.