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British Council joins Hendo to save backcloth

Eco-designer Jose Hendo (left), talks to Kate Airey, the British High Commissioner to Uganda, through a live demonstration of bark cloth making at the #Bark2Roots installation during the Creative Economy Week in Uganda. Photo/courtesy/British Council

 

There were many talking points at the just concluded Creative Economy Week Uganda that was held by the British Council. The five day events were focusing on the pivotal role of creativity, collaboration, and innovation in fostering sustainable, dynamic, and inclusive growth.
The five days had a number of panel discussions, art exhibition walkthroughs at the Makerere University Margaret Trowell Art Gallery thanks to the Njabala Foundation, a policy discussion that had Rachel Magola give a keynote.

But one of the highlights was a fashion roundtable that also included a live demonstration of the making of barkcloth’ curated by Jose Hendo through ‘Bark to the roots’ by Bold in Africa and IGC Fashion.
This Exhibition set the tone for Creative Economy Week Uganda with an invitation to gain insights and a better understanding of the business of fashion, alongside insights into the innovations of sustainable approaches to textile production.

But the exhibition wasn’t all we were seeing the backcloth designs. Last week, British Council hosted Hendo along with other designers to embark on an aggressive mutuba tree planting initiative with the aim of combating climate change and protecting the heritage.

Ficus natalensis which is commonly known as the mutuba tree plays a major role in manufacturing the backcloth. The bark of the tree is harvested, without harming the tree, to make barkcloth, an environmentally-friendly, renewable material. Skilled artisans incorporate this unique fabric into many modern uses, including fashion, accessories, housewares, interior design, and art.

However, over the years, backcloth has been facing threats from both a cultural point of view and the environment. For instance, even when the practise was meant to be environment friendly without damaging the tree whose back was being removed, some people have over done it, leaving tree stems too weak to hold on.

In the same way, many people have stopped growing mutuba opting for profitable and easily sellable options such as eucalyptus.
Which was the main reason the exhibition during the cultural week and the initiative last week were remarkable moments.
Hendo has done a great deal in preserving the backcloth by creating designs that always pay tribute to the garment.

Hendo believes backcloth is an answer to the world crisis of cloth and waste; “It is a perfect ambassador for sustainability because its harvesting does not destroy the tree which can still be harvested for years.”
Hendo is an eco-fashion designer based in London, she believes that sustainable fashion is a growing design philosophy and trend. In most of her showcases that usually include models wearing her clothes as well as installations and at times photo exhibitions, she intends to ask ‘where do our old clothes go after use?’.

Her works, most of which recycle materials from old fabrics and finally garnished with backcloth seem to answer that, she says that sustainable fashion trends should be a responsibility for all fashion designers.

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