These gorgeous round baskets come from Northern Ghana.
Our baskets are supplied by Baba Tree Baskets - top quality baskets woven by Artisans who are paid well above the local average for their work.
The main reason for basket weaving in this region is due to the poor fertility of the soil around Bolgatanga, making it unsuitable for extensive agricultural activities. The region also suffers from erratic rainfall patterns and harsh weather conditions, meaning they can only grow enough to sustain their families, leaving nothing to take to market. So mainly the women have supplemented their household income with handicraft activities such as basket weaving, leather work and pottery.
Bolga baskets are woven using Veta vera straw, known locally as kinkahe (elephant grass) which is collected from the tops of the grass stalk, then each piece is split in half vertically. Each half of the split straw is then twisted tightly by rolling it to give it strength. The straw is put in bunches and dyed in boiling water. For bright colours the straw is dyed yellow first, then the colour. The weaver carefully selects appropriate straw for the base, sides and handle. The selection of the proper grass for various parts of the basket is critical to good weaving. Weaving starts at the base and works up to the rim. The rims are wrapped with straw to form a tube like edge. The handles are made with a sturdy wrapping technique around a grass core. Remaining bits of straw that are sticking out of the basket are carefully trimmed off. Leather handles are skillfully applied by local leather workers. A medium basket takes about 3 days. Some shapes and patterns are more difficult to weave and take longer.
The original Bolga basket was woven round, without any form of handle. The ends of the straw were left untrimmed. It was used basically as a sieve in the brewing of a local alcoholic beverage called pito. Pito was and still is an important drink during such occasions as funerals, marriage ceremonies, festivals, naming ceremonies and other important social occasions.
Over centuries, weavers from Bolga have passed down traditional weaving skills to subsequent generations, including the youth of today. This sophisticated form of basket making is unique to this corner of Ghana and across West Africa.
Fortunately, basket making skills are widespread. Children learn the basics of splitting grass with their teeth and rolling it on their legs to twist it in preparation for weaving beside their mothers. They might start practicing on small baskets when they're young so that, by the time, they're adults, they've mastered basic basket making techniques.
About 25,000 knots - where warp meets weft - are woven by expert, calloused hands in order to create a Baba Tree 16'' Round basket. That doesn't include creating a very neat coil around the top of the basket, nor does it include the work involved in creating a neat and very strong handle that is going to be subjected to a stringent quality control process by the Baba Tree (as are all aspects of the basket).
The above tasks take about 2.5 to 4 days work depending on the weaver. This figure does not include the time that it takes for the weaver to walk to the market to purchase straw. It doesn't take into consideration the time it takes for the weaver to prepare the straw for dyeing (another day 1.5 to 2 days work for one basket) or the time it takes to dye the straw. The Baba Tree dyes all the straw for our weavers.
Click here to be taken to the Basket shop
Ilala Weavers - Telephone Wire Baskets
"In 1980 Ilala Weavers was born, starting life in a home-based farm shed. This was a difficult time in South Africa's history, being in the heart of the Apartheid era, and with sanctions in place it was almost impossible to export any of the crafts, despite numerous enquiries. However, due to the fact that we were helping grass-roots artists, the USA finally agreed to allow our products in, provided each shipment was accompanied with a sworn declaration stating that we were in no way sponsored by, or connected to any Parastatal organisation. In the late-1980's we moved to our present position, when an old farmhouse became available on the outskirts of Hluhluwe village"
Fast forward to 1994 ........a High Point in the history of South Africa, with the advent of our first successful Democratic Election following the release of Nelson Mandela. This generated a lot of interest in South Africa, and Tourism expanded dramatically, which in turn generated a lot of interest in the handcrafts of the country, which further boosted the growth of Ilala Weavers. We experienced several high-points of our own during this year, the first being when our son Craig joined Ilala Weavers after completing his university education. Also in this year, Ilala Weavers was awarded the SBDC Trophy for "The Most Innovative Exporter of the Year", as well as the Sunday Tribune/Coopers & Lybrand "Exporter of the Year for SMME's" ......WOW!!
In 1996 the opportunity arose for us to purchase the old farmhouse and surrounding property, and we undertook a major renovation/facelift, with new offices, extended storage and packaging area, plus a retail "Gallery", Restaurant, and Museum, the latter to showcase the many awesome and unique antique Zulu artifacts collected over the years. During this year, Craig's twin brother, Jeremy, joined the ranks, yet another high-point for us!
In 1998, Craig married Jackie, who had been a team-member of Ilala Weavers for the past 4 years. ..... There is no need for me to say what an invaluable member of Ilala Weavers Jackie is! - And today, Craig and Jackie make a formidable managerial team together, whilst Mike and I try very hard to slow down!
Having experienced so many "highs" over the years, we sadly experienced the worst possible "low" on the 30th August, 2000, when our dear Jeremy was shot and killed whilst on a field trip to collect and pay for lampshades for an order. Suffice to say, this occurrence effected us all, including all the crafters, who had a great deal of respect and affection for Jeremy, and came in their droves to pay their last respects. As is customary in the Zulu culture, gifts are presented to the bereaved family at a funeral, and we were overwhelmed with gifts of woven baskets, mats and money. The monies were used to purchase trees, which were planted in Jeremy's memory, and which, today, are beginning to provide shade for the crafters when they visit Ilala Weavers to sell their wares, as we no longer make field trips, but instead pay for their transport to us.
Ilala Weavers keeps going.............and it is hoped it will continue to do so for many years to come. click here to be taken to the section in the shop