Mutuba

Mutuba line

Bark cloth is the result of a perfect harmony between mankind and nature. Harvesting and preparing bark cloth is a tradition of the Baganda tribe, an exceptional art passed on through generations for more than 600 years.

Nowadays, only a few families still possess the knowledge that allows a simple bark to become one the masterpieces of the intangible heritage of humanity, as Unesco has recently defined it. Vincent is one of these « artists ». Member of the Ngonge clan, he learnt this know-how from his father who learnt in turn by his from his own ancestors.

The tree, a middle sized plant of the Ficus family, must be at least six years old before it can deliver its first usable bark, an ordinary grayish coloured bark to the inexperienced eye. For the craftsman it is ripe to become a cloth as large as 18 square feet (6m2), just as thin and strong as woven linen. Once retrieved of its bark the tree is at rest for six months before the next harvest.

The bark is folded and processed while it is still fresh, steamed and beaten with a wooden mallet by two or three men working side by side under a shed in the garden.

In 2013 an NGO in Uganda (East Africa) asked Po! Paris to create a development project involving a group of women on the outskirts of the capital Kampala. Mark Eden Schooley and John Felici created a new line of bags with using bark cloth instead of leather. The bark cloth is treated and painted in white or black in Kampala by the women, lined and sewn in their small workshop providing income to the community helping finance medication, schooling fees.

This is the first step Po! Paris treads out of Albania, from eastern Europe straight to eastern Africa. A long step, far away, bringing people and stories together.

(Photos by Mark Eden Schooley)

U-mutubaouganda

Bright new days ahead

Cimi. An energetic man. His father was famous for his resistance to change, a hero defending a tradition so old no one thought it would even be past over to next generation. A superficial observer would have mistaken that “resistance” with a somewhat negative attitude towards life.

None of that. When it comes to felt , in the family either you have it their way or you don’t and, as it happens, this is often the only way.

Cimi has that same energy, even though he seems to use it also in other dimensions of life apart from felt. When driving it feels an independent bandit is being chased both by Naples’ police and “camorristas” at the same time. He might even make it safe home. Energy. It simply runs in the family veins.

I’ve been told Cimi has had it so strong since childhood. At the age of six he felted Auntie Violeta’s hen with a bar of soap he’d found on a wall near by. Luckily this did not affect her eggs, even though Violeta’s legendary  “Vez dhe limon” soup has since been thicker than previously recorded.

cimi

His energy is truly astounding to this day.

The felting process requires a great deal of energy.

Felt is the result  of energy transferred from a hand to wool.

At first it’s just heaps of sheep’s hair. Then a fluffy cloud is created from the carefully washed bundle, spread and dried naturally. “Opened”, using a primitive kind of bow made of a piece of wood and string, it becomes light as a feather. It is then roughly shaped with water and soap and left to rest. It is fitted on a shape made in a very, very special wood and rubbed thoroughly with soap till if becomes a thin regular felt. Again it is left to dry naturally on the form.

A lot of energy. A lot of time.

Cimi’s hands have a very clean, smooth and soft skin.

serre-chapeau1

Since the first days of our business relation with the family, we have been working to persuade them to make different shapes.

In Hysen’s days me managed to alter the diameter of only a couple of centimeters. The wood seemed to have been a major obstacle at the time. A special wood of course, very special, only from a tree we could not understand the name in archaic Albanian language. Any man of experience hearing the name would look to the ground and repeat “vështirë” -difficoult- shaking his head.

The wood was found in the end, on a hillside close to the village. It was nearly  burned as firewood because of an ancient unresolved dispute between  four men. We were lucky enough to help clear the dispute during a meeting in a “Kafe” just outside the “pazari i vijetët” before it was too late.

Cimi got down to work and we were overwhelmed with the result.


M09QLS031-41

There are rumours there might be colours coming up.

We’ll wait and see, hoping Cimi has forgotten about Gjorg’s disrespectful glance he gave the family cat when he chew the geraniums.

Gjorg owns the shop next door. He sells and grows flowers and plants one can use to make colours.

A member of his family was once late at a meeting with Skenderbeg, some say one of the reasons behind the defeat of the Albanian resistance to the Turks in the 16th century, but that’s another story.

M09QLS01-02-Qelesh-Mix

M09QLS02-square-(low)

 

We were there

Maison et Objet

We were there again. You were there too. It was great.

Po Paris Stand Maison et Objet Septembre 2014plenty of new retail addresses.

Check our store location list as we gradually update it.

Po paris

 

Mutuba Collection

mutuba-cut

Mutuba skin is the fruit of a perfect harmony between man and nature, a tradition dating as far back as the 15th century. Recently proclaimed masterpiece of immaterial human heritage by Unesco, it is the tradition of the Baganda tribe based in southern Uganda. The fiber is extracted from the bark of the mutuba tree. Beaten, steamed and dried in the sun it acquires the looks of an animal skin, large, flexible and resistant.

Only few people possess the ancestral knowledge to make the cloth perfectly smooth, a knowledge passed forward to the younger generation exclusively within the family through repetition and observation.

Po! Paris was invited to Uganda by a local organisation leading various gender orientated activities to help create  a new social business following our experience in the Balkans.

Together with Mark Eden Schooley we sourced the locally available materials and designed a new line of bags and pouches in mutuba skin.

The fibre is treated with latex based paint, sanded and waxed, and comes in many different shapes and finishes.

This activity contributes significantly to the survival of the Barkcloth tradition and to the development of new social businesses in the outskirts of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

mutuba-cook2 mutuba-cut2 mutuba-dry mutuba-dry2 mutuba-dry3 mutuba-dry4 mutuba-hit mutuba-paint mutuba-people mutuba-plantation mutuba-roll mutuba-saw mutuba mutuba2 mutuba3 S05MTB02sand-sceno

New arrival !

We just received a stock of seria shtat and milingone (3 legs) chairs.
Both handmade in Albania, with car body parts (seat) and steel reinforcement bar (leg). Each chair is unique.

Amazing colors…

Enquire within to know availabilities : paris@po-paris.com (approximative retail price : 250€)milingone seriashtat