Barkcloth to the Roots (B2TR) is an initiative to promote the use of barkcloth globally in the modern world, anchored in the ethos of the sustainable development goals, reminding us to preserve both our heritage and the environment. It endeavors to bring together people who are working with barkcloth in different and innovative ways, including those who harvest it and those who are using it. B2TR aims at saving the barkcloth heritage that is recognised by UNESCO.
The 3rd annual Bark to the Roots (B2TR) event titled Past, Present and Future, was the beginning of the campaign to plant one million mutuba trees from which bark cloth is made. The event that was held at the Uganda Museum was hosted by London-based designer José Hendo who extensively uses the cloth in her creations, and Bukomansimbi Organic Tree Farmers Association (BOTFA) who are growing the trees and getting the younger generation into the ancient practice of processing mutuba tree bark to create the cloth. They are working with the community to pass on the techniques to the younger generation so that the practice does not become obsolete.
Through the one-million mutuba tree-planting campaign, B2TR is promoting a practice that was declared World Heritage Material by UNESCO in 2005 to recognise barkcloth as the oldest man-made cloth. The technique by which the bark of the mutuba tree is manually processed to create a cloth is centuries old. B2TR endeavors to bring together people who are working with barkcloth in different and innovative ways including those who harvest it and those who are using it.
The event was attended by ambassadors and other government representatives, a representative from UNESCO, Dr Vinny Nakabugo from Makerere University, Fred Kato Mutebi, Sana and Sarah Nakisanze. There was a live demonstration of barkcloth processing from the BOTFA community and an exhibition of items made from barkcloth, including fashion garments and accessories. Designer José Hendo revealed a garment that she created from barkcloth that had been harvested the previous year from a tree that the designer adopted.
The launch of B2TR in 2014 brought together people who commercially produce various items in barkcloth. The initiative had a boost in 2015 when CNN filmed the community of barkcloth makers in Bukomansimbi as the first trees were planted for the program Inside Africa. The program also documented the traditional harvesting process for barkcloth.
We hope that the B2TR initiative will continue as an annual event with full participation of local stakeholders.