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.
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.