When we met Lydia a few years ago, she was skilled in making bark cloth but had no one to buy her products. We asked if she would teach some of the ladies in our Widows Program how to make bark cloth and she agreed. After spending time with the widows and hearing them talk about the Bible, Lydia became a Christian! Now, Lydia is actively involved in her local church. She and the group of widows she teaches study the Rafiki Bible Study together as they make their bark cloth.
What is bark cloth?
Bark cloth has been manufactured in Uganda for centuries. It takes strength, stamina, and practice to make traditional Ugandan bark cloth. The producers of this surprisingly soft and supple material first scrape away the outer bark of fig trees called mutuba (usually Ficus natalensis) then slit the inner bark with a knife and peel it upward off the tree.
They boil the bark in large pans full of water to soften it and then pound it for several hours with heavy wooden mallets until it is thinner, wider, and softer. This pounding technique gradually increases the size of the cloth from an original width of approximately 18 inches to between 7 to 9 feet. The bark cloth is then sun dried and turns a gorgeous brown color. Once it has dried, the cloth is ready to be used.