Curing a goat skin the traditional way

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Goats are prolific across the Sahel. Livestock is the most common form of investment here and goats survive well in the harsh arid environment. While the staple food in the North is millet, mutton and goat meat is traditionally eaten at festivals and other celebrations. Nothing is wasted. Goat skin is perfect for fine craftwork such as braiding.

First the wood of a kojoli tree is burned to make ash (ndoondi) which is mixed with water. The goat skin is soaked in this for 3 days (see Image 1), after which the hairs can easily be scraped off with a knife (Image 2). Then the skin is soaked for a day or more in a mix of water and gawde, which are pods from a nearby acacia tree (Image 3). These young pods contain tannin. (they are also edible and can be used to make red and yellow dyes).

When the skin is soft, it is rinsed in water, wrung out, and then bashed vigorously across the side of a pounding pot for about 20 minutes to make it even softer (Image 4). It is then scraped again on the underside and left in the sun to dry (Image 5). The whole process is natural and uses no chemicals. The downside is that the leather can be quite smelly and a product made using a large amount of naturally tanned leather will need a good airing to loose its pungency. Most SAHEL bags employ this leather only for the braided handles so this is not a problem.

3 Responses to Curing a goat skin the traditional way

  1. simon

    Is this the process used to cure a goat skin for a djembe drum?

    • admin

      I believe it is the same. Instead of hanging it up to dry, the skin would be stretched over the drum and left to dry and tighten.

  2. Loisie

    I would like to start a business in goat skin curing in Vryheid, Kwazulu Natal. This would entail a project that will serve the community and help with poverty alleviation. In order for me to submit a proposal to the local municipality, I would like you to furnish me with the required information.

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