Ficus Natalensis or the "Mutuba Tree" When harvested, it's bark is handcrafted by skilled artisans into a material called barkcloth, or Olubugo as it is known to the people of Uganda. Prior to the arrival of the Arabic cloth in the nineteenth century barkcloth was the traditional form of dress. Barkcloth holds a very high cultural significance to the nation and people of Uganda, and to this day, is still worn by Buganda kings for official functions.
Importance of Bark Cloth
As these trees are indigenous,
They are naturally hostile to invasive species, and can thrive in natural conditions.
The trees also facilitate water retention in the soil, which helps other food crops planted on the same land.
The leaves have medicinal properties, and are used to treat sore throats, whooping cough, influenza and dysentery.
On driest days, the trees provide shade to food crops like banana plantations, coffee, and cocoa, which are important cash crops for local farmers.
Barkcloth is processed from the inner bark of the Mutuba tree. The bark is harvested during the wet season, and can be harvested continuously for over 40 years without causing harm to the tree. Through a long and strenuous process, the bark is beaten with wooden mallets till it possesses a soft and fine texture. The shade of the barkcloth is determined by the level of exposure to sunlight, the more exposure to the sun the darker the cloth. In 2005 the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Uganda’s barkcloth “a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.