Barkcloth is made in Uganda from the Mutuba tree (Ficus natalensis). Its construction is one of the oldest known to man and predates weaving.
It is completely sustainable; once the bark is removed it grows back without killing the tree. Each piece of barkcloth is like the fingerprint of a tree making each of our lampshades unique!
Traditionally, the cloth was worn as a wrap and used in coronations, religious ceremonies and as burial shrouds. Farmers also used it to pay land taxes.
The practice of making barkcloth was almost lost when the British introduced cotton. However, today the movement to regenerate barkcloth production is steadily growing - artisans are developing it for use in fashion, art and interior design.
The Ugandan artisans we work with aim to plant indigenous Mutuba trees to counteract the devastating effect of eucalyptus introduction. The fast growing eucalyptus drains the land of nutrients causing surrounding crops to fail.
We hope to encourage the incredible tradition of barkcloth and to invest in the reforestation of Uganda.
Fred Mutebi is an artist and skilled woodblock printmaker.
He is passionate about saving the dying art of barkcloth making and
founded Bukomansimbi Organic Tree Farmers Association (BOTFA) to
encourage the cultivation of Mutuba trees, to teach the Ugandan youth
and provide them with employment.
Led by Vincent and Paul (9 th generation barkcloth makers) the skill is
passed on to younger members.
Barkcloth is only ever harvested during the rain season. First they test the
tree is ready by making a small nick, they then scrape off the outer layer.
Once the outer bark is removed they cut horizontally round the trunk,
then vertically to start to peel.
Using sharpened banana stalks they push the soft bark back
Until the whole piece comes away from the tree
The tree is wrapped in banana leaves like a giant present – this protects it
while it regrows its bark
They then roll up the bark and take it back to the workshop to be
It is boiled in water for 5-10mins
Then beaten for hours with mallets made in different grades for desired
thick/thinness. This process softens the cloth and can grow up to 5 times
its original size.
Finally it is stretched and laid out to dry under the African sun!