Telephone Wire Baskets
The Zulu people have long been associated with their skill and artistry in fashioning baskets from the native plants and grasses of their homeland as well as for their intricate and culturally important beadwork.
These bright, washable and sturdy baskets, called imbenge in the Zulu language and referred to as "scoobie" bowls in South Africa, come in myriad colors and intricate, mesmerizing designs.
The original idea to use recycled telephone wire for baskets reportedly came from security workers on the graveyard shift in South African factories. To while away the hours, they would often wind and weave brightly colored bits of telephone wire around their nightsticks.
Weaving of these baskets from the top down and over a form makes them even more unusual. Most baskets are woven from the bottom up. These inventive weavers start with a thick wire at the top rim of the basket and then work their way down, pulling each wire taut against a form to create the baskets shape.
Since wire baskets are woven by many men due to the difficult nature of weaving wire, they are able to stay home on their tribal lands instead of moving to cities to look for work.
These unique baskets are especially functional and can be washed in warm, soapy water.
Ghana Kente Cloth
"KENTE" is a brilliantly colourful fabric, entirely hand-woven by Ghanaian weavers. The brilliant colours and intricate designs associated with Kente have definitely made this fabric the best known of all Ghanaian, and perhaps even all West African textiles. Every design has a story with a proverbial meaning, giving each cloth its own distinction.
Uses Of Kente
Kente cloth is usually worn for ceremonies, festivals, and other sacred occasions. It is also given as a gift for weddings, child naming ceremonies, graduations, and other special events.
Women wear the cloth in 2 pieces - 1 piece about 2 yards long and 45 inches wide wrapped round the waist to form a floor-length skirt worn over a blouse specially sewn in plain material. The other Kente piece was either hung loosely over the arm or used as a shawl or stole.
Men wear the cloth in much the same way as the 'Toga' was worn by the ancient Greeks, and it would seem that these ancient people must have been in contact centuries ago.
The patterns of the cloth have evolved with the rigid standards of society itself, so one can easily say that if Kente were taken away from Ghana, it would be like taking the 'Kimono' away from Japan. Ghana and the Kente are culturally inseparable.
The patterns are so intricate that the artist, amid a welter of balls of cotton thread of every colour, must sometimes snip off tiny bits to be applied over a width of about 1 centimeter, or even one milimetre, while carefully counting the woof threads.
The History Of Ghanaian Kente
The history of Kente weaving extends back more than 400 years. The word "Kente" comes from the word "kenten", which means basket. The very first Kente weavers used raffia, or palm leaf fibers, and wove them into a cloth that looked like a basket.
One story about Kente says that two friends learned to weave by observing a spider weave its web. They wove in imitation of the spider, using raffia fibers to create a strip of fabric. Their leaders were so impressed with this new cloth that it became the royal cloth and was saved for special occasions. There are more than 300 different patters of Kente cloth. Each pattern has a name and its own meaning. The meanings come from past events, religious beliefs, political ideas, and social customs.
Yellow represents the yolk of the egg as well as certain fruits and vegetables. The colour is a symbol for things that are holy and precious.
Pink is used to symbolize gentle qualities such as calmness, sweetness, and tenderness.
Red stands for blood and for strong political and spiritual feelings.
Maroon is associated with the colour of Earth, the mother. It represents healing and protection from evil.
Blue stands for the sky and is used to symbolize holiness, peace, harmony, good fortune, and love.
Green is associated with plants and stand for growth and good health.
Gold like the metal gold, is a symbol of royalty, wealth, and spiritual purity.
White represents the white of an egg as well as the white clay that is used in certain rituals. It stands for purity and healing.
Black stands for aging because in nature things get darker as they get older. Black also stands for strong spiritual energy, and the spirits of the ancestors.
Grey represents ashes, which are used for spiritual cleansing.
Silver stands for the moon and represents serenity, purity and joy.
Purple like maroon, is associated with Earth and with healing.
We've sold these beautiful baskets for over 12 years now and thought that it was time that we told you a lot more about them as many do not appreciate the full story behind them!
Feel the mystery and essence of Africa with these superb Zulu baskets, each one unique and lovingly hand stitched.
In this age of modern technology and mass production, it is a joy to see and feel the dignified elegance and beauty of a rich Zulu heritage that has become a collectable art-form, preserving an age-old tradition proudly safeguarded and handed down through the generations.
Every basket is made by hand, using indigenous raw materials, and the type of basket varies from area to area, depending on the availability of raw materials, and the use to which the basket is to be put. It can take up to one month to produce a medium-sized basket that will be unique in size, shape, pattern, weave and colour.
KwaZulu-Natal is also known as the "garden province" of South Africa and is well know for some of the highest quality African baskets. Many Zulu women on this well-watered land of rolling hills work from their homes making traditional Zulu African baskets. All the baskets are made by hand using natural raw materials obtained in the area.
The women are able to carry on their normal daily lives collecting water and planting the fields as well as attend to their children. These women have managed to turn the making of African baskets into a home industry, supplementing their income.For some this is their only form of income. Weaving can be a personal activity, but usually it is a social activity, with all women in a given community collecting and preparing materials and weaving as a group.
Each African Zulu basket is unique in shape, pattern, color, weave and size. No two baskets are ever the same even if made by the same weaver.
The products of grass and ilala palm weaving (such things as sleeping mats) and basketry are associated with the widest possible range of activities throughout a Zulu's lifetime, touching virtually every domestic,social, and religious function. These baskets are evidence of the expertise of these artisans and their ingenuity for using indigenous plants. Traditionally Zulu women weave the African Zulu baskets using age-old, time-honored methods that are passed on from mother to child. The patterns, each with their own meaning, vary from decorative bands to intricate triangles, diamonds, zig-zags, and checkerboard motifs.
When first starting to learn, a weaver is an "apprentice". From apprentice a weaver becomes a "junior weaver". Most experienced weavers are considered "Standard Weavers" while a few are "Superior Standard" and only a few become "Collector Quality." or "Masters." VERY few become "World Class Masters" or "Museum Grade Masters" or "Grand Master Weavers" (there are four today). A "Master Weaver" is recognized by the overall quality of the basket, especially the tightness of weave and the intricacy, as well as size (only master weavers can accomplish larger baskets) and shapes she is capable of producing and consistency of her work, pattern and design, as well as her ability to pull consistently when making a basket, creating an even basket. Consistency (being able to consistently and repeatedly produce high quality baskets) is also of great importance. There are many standard or collector quality weavers that have produced one fine quality basket, but their next baskets are not good at all! Master weavers also produce all the products (dyed materials, etc.) for their baskets and are typically champions in their communities - encouraging other weavers to excel and weave better quality baskets through example.
Young women start out learning basket making from their grandmothers or mothers or aunts. They often start out assisting with preparing the materials or weaving odds and ends left over. This is very much a volunteer apprentice-type program and a girl has to want to learn basket making to undertake the training that is required. While many young girls show an interest in weaving, very few keep at it for more than a short period. Weavers are first APPRENTICE weavers, then JUNIOR weavers, then STANDARD weavers, and finally SUPERIOR STANDARD weavers prior to them becoming a MASTER weaver. Very few (less than a dozen) Master weavers go onto being a WORLD CLASS MASTER weaver.
While there is no specific age when someone becomes a master weaver (and baskets made by weavers that are not master weavers are often nearly as fine) it often takes decades of weaving for a woman to perfect her skills. When eyesight or upper body strength begins to fade, master weavers often weave smaller "herb" baskets that do not require the meticulous work of the larger pieces. How can you tell the difference between the various grades of weavers? Well, with a little practice and common sense and a few examples, most people can begin to distinguish between the graduations.
Mothers for All
News from Mothers for All in Botswana -
During the course of 2011 we taught 40 of our mothers living in central and eastern Botswana to develop their own backyard permaculture gardens. This programme will be rolled out to 20 of our mothers living in the Okavango Delta region in 2012. The bountiful fresh produce from their gardens has helped to improve each household's food security as well nutritional status, and has inspired many other women in their villages to follow suit.
Our mothers have demonstrated that it is possible, with commitment, perseverence and a little ingenuity, to overcome all the obstacles that are usually given as reasons for not cultivating food gardens in Botswana. One of our mothers even put her seedlings and tomato plants in sacks of soil which she hung from a tree in order to keep them away from chickens and goats.
Four mothers, Maipelo Tshipa, Philominah Baoleki, Emeldah Dikeleko Bareetseng and Lorato Molapisane, together with our national coordinator, Jenny Dunlop, went to the Tlholego Education Institute in Rustenburg, South Africa for the initial two-week permaculture design training. These four mothers were then appointed as group coordinators and were responsible for assisting in the training and support of the other 36 mothers in the eastern and central regions of Botswana.
In May 2011, the initial series of four workshops were conducted. Each workshop dealt with every stage of the gardening process. The first workshop was centred around composting and creating healthy soils and planting seeds. The second workshop focused on companion planting and water harvesting. The third workshop was all about natural forms of pest control and the harvesting of seeds. The last workshop, which was held in a local game reserve in the Tuli Block, celebrated their harvest and focused on the importance of conserving the natural environment. The women brought some of their excess produce with them and were shown how to turn it into jams and pickles.
Of course, there have been many challenges lack of running water, poor fencing, extreme temperatures, and heavy rain with hail. Then there were the free-roaming chickens, goats and cattle, as well as the usual pests such as termites, locusts and beetles. However, with the help of the Non State Actors and EU grant, Mothers for All was able to buy fencing and shade cloth to help mitigate these problems. Forty mothers each received a wheelbarrow, shovel, spade, rake, watering can and trowel and 30 mothers were provided with fencing and shade cloth. Ten mothers, who did not have running water, were each supplied with 250 litre water drum.
The basket arrived today. It's absolutely marvellous!
Thank you so very much.
Thank you for your email. Just wanted to say that my order arrived safely a couple of days ago and I am really pleased with it. The smell of the material used when you open the bubble wrap takes me right back to my childhood. We used the baskets when we were helping my grandmother 'winnow' millet. I have actually bought it for a friend of mine and I am sure she will be just as delighted with it as I am.
I just wanted to write and thank you for amazing service and fabulous buttons. I ordered a couple of days ago and received my order today with an unexpected (and lovely) free gift.
can't wait to need more buttons.
Thank you for the shield brooch which arrived with my elephants today - a lovely surprise gift!
I just wanted to say thank you for the beautiful, quality items I have just received in my order. The knitting is fabulous and so reasonably priced for the amount of work which has gone into it. I know the felted ladybird purse will become a favourite when I give it as a gift to a friends daughter.
I don't normally write to people unless I'm very, very impressed!
Could you please tell me when/if you expect to receive further deliveries of the Ivory knitting bag as a friend of mine wishes to place an order and I would like to order further items. Many thanks.
Wow! Received buttons today. Great product and great service, thank you!
Just a note to say that my buttons arrived safely this morning - they are absolutely beautiful and I really appreciated the speedy delivery.
Thanks for the very quick delivery and the lovely 'thank you card'.I love your site and buttons and am telling all my friends about it.
Thanks so much Chrissie. Such excellent customer service! I'm thrilled with the buttons.
Thank you so much for the beautiful flower brooch. I needed it for a special jacket and it looks so good attached to the lapel. It makes this article of clothing really special.
Thank you also for the lovely buttons, I use them for fastenings on fabric bags that I make to sell for my local charity.
Thanks also for sending my order so quickly.
With best wishes.