By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mbuti peoples


Bark, pigment

H. 86.36 cm (34 in)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Gift of Molly and Walter Bareiss, 1993.48

First they slit the tree's trunk to peel away the top layer of bark, revealing the smooth inner layer. (The tree is wrapped in leaves to protect it while the bark renews itself.) Using wooden or ivory mallets, men pound the bark, compressing and smoothing it until it attains a life-like consistency. This must be done carefully, for too much pounding tears and weakens the cloth, not enough results in a stiff cloth. The finished cloth is decorated by women, who paint delicate designs in dyes made of gardenia juice, pulverized leaves, charcoal, and other natural pigments.