The cloth of kings – from a development partnership to world cultural heritage

Under the patronage of UNESCO, the special exhibition ‘Bark Cloth – the Cloth of Kings’ – was opened at the Frankfurt Home Textiles trade fair.


Bark cloth is a prehistoric material made out of the bark of the Mutuba, an East African fig tree. Through to the 19th century, the best cloths were reserved for the monarch of Buganda, a 1,000-year-old kingdom that still exists to this day. The bark grows extremely quickly and can be harvested annually – without having to fell a tree. Bark cloth lends itself to a large variety of uses, including clothing, packaging and furniture manufacture.

In 1999 the Ugandan-German family-owned company ‘BarkCloth’ joined forces with Ugandan organic farmers to start pioneering the systematic production of bark cloth. As part of a development partnership, a project targeting the socially compatible and eco-friendly production and marketing of bark cloth was supported from 2000-2003 and implemented jointly with GTZ on behalf of BMZ. Today, bark cloth production secures an income for hundreds of small-scale farming families.

In 2005 bark cloth production was declared an immaterial World Cultural Heritage and in 2011 the BarkCloth company won the German Design Award.


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