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Object Timeline

1901

  • Work on this object began.

1925

  • Work on this object ended.

1963

  • We acquired this object.

2013

2021

  • You found it!

Textile (Uganda), early 20th century

This is a Textile. It is dated early 20th century and we acquired it in 1963. Its medium is bark and its technique is beaten or chewed. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Beaten bark cloth is a craft tradition so deeply embedded in Ugandan culture that UNESCO has named it part of our world collective heritage. The cloth has a unique, suede-like surface, and, unlike the more widely known bark cloths from Hawaii and the Pacific islands, is never painted. Worn wrapped around the body toga-style by both men and women, bark cloth is used for ceremonies, funerals and important social occasions, but it also sees everyday use in the domestic interior as bedding and room dividers.
The bark is harvested from the Mutuba tree in strips roughly 15 inches wide. The exposed trunk is wrapped with banana leaves, to keep the tree healthy and allow the bark to re-grow. To enhance the bark’s distinctive rust color, the moist bark is smoked by piling banana leaves on top and burning them. Men working with three different types of grooved mallets pound the bark over a period of hours, slowly stretching it – the finished product can be four times with width of the original strip – and softening until it is fine, flexible and supple.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 224.8 x 104.1 cm (7 ft. 4 1/2 in. x 41 in.)

Cite this object as

Textile (Uganda), early 20th century; bark; H x W: 224.8 x 104.1 cm (7 ft. 4 1/2 in. x 41 in.); 1963-5-1

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18449423/ |title=Textile (Uganda), early 20th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=7 May 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>