Africa brings you a new take on florals this year. And it’s captivating!
In this country, we talk a lot about different cultures and finding a way to understand, respect and embrace all of our different cultural groups. We probably understand better than most how challenging a feat it can be, but also how striking and beautiful it can be on the occasion we do get it right. And that’s what I love about a new Mavromac & Gatehouse fabric collection, Serendipity.
Serendipity: Florals and Mud
Aside: Oxford defines the word “serendipity” as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. Here’s some interesting further reading on the purely fictional origin of the word serendipity. (If you’re interested at all in words, history, literature and legends, you can sign up for my Joburg Word Factory mailer on just such matters.) But back to décor.
Mavromac & Gatehouse’s Serendipity beautifully marries two very different and unexpected designs through the use of my favourite design vehicle, colour. English watercolour florals and an African mud cloth design exist side-by-side and the result is striking, but somehow strangely harmonious – the mud cloth lending a confident and untamed geometric quality to the fine, almost fleeting florals.
(Read more on how to use colour to mix patters.)
The collection is available in teal, stone, terracotta clay and the beautiful indigo. The floral, entitled Augustine, is a linen-cotton blend and suitable for both upholstery and curtaining. The great part is that it’s completely machine washable, unlike many beautiful curtaining textiles.
The mud cloth design, entitled Out Of Africa, is 100% cotton, soil and stain repellent and very hardwearing. This makes it ideal for seating, but unfortunately can only be professionally cleaned. As long as spills are blotted when they occur, this should not have to happen that regularly. Fortunately the design is such that spills will remain camouflaged until such time as one can have the seating professionally cleaned.
What’s a Mud Cloth?
West African Mud Cloths or Bògòloanfini originate from Mali. They take quite a lot of patience and collaborative effort to produce and serve a variety of important rolls in the culture. The men of the Bambaran tribe start off by weaving strips of cotton around 15cm wide, which is then stitched together in cloths of around 1 metre by 1,5 metres. The women then dye these cloths with a natural plant-based dye, dry them in the sun and paint the designs on with fermented mud. The mud is washed off and the yellow dye washed out, leaving the dark brown and white designs we now see all over in home decor.
You may be wondering why they dyed it yellow in the first place if it gets washed out again. The reason is rather clever. The yellow dye creates a chemical reaction with the fermented mud, accounting for the brown stains that become the design. Other Malian regions have cottoned on the fact that the cloths can be produced much faster to meet foreign demand by cutting out this step, so most of the cloths available to us, fetching upward of R800 a piece, are made using a slightly different process.
Of course, the mud cloth fabric you can buy from Mavromac & Gatehouse is simplified even further to a woven design, just like any other commercial fabrics we purchase, which means we’re be able to furnish our couches and curtains with it at a greatly reduced cost.
Though we are neither British nor Malian in our country, we are African and we are part Western. As such this range is symbolic to me of the beauty that can be achieved when we find similarities between the two and combine them in a complementarian manner that does not require either to stray too far from its original roots. Each retaining what makes it beautiful and letting similarities bind them.
Check out our online store for other West African merchandise and get in touch if you’d like to have soft furnishings made up in this range.