The Story Behind Zulu Beer Baskets

The Story Behind Zulu Beer Baskets

Traditionally the Zulu Beer Basket is used to store the home brew beer made by the Zulus. They are woven in such a way that when the weave gets wet it expands and becomes watertight. Decorative beer baskets were made for special events and purposes e.g. Marriage, Harvest, Fertility and Birth Celebrations and as gifts for family or special friends.

In terms of traditional marriages the custom of Lobola (bridal price) is widely practiced and is often paid in cows to the Bride’s father. It is rude to ask for this so the Beer Basket indicated the number of cows to be paid. This price was determined by the importance of the Bride’s family and that of the Bride’s standing in the family.

The different patterns all have a meaning in Zulu culture:
Diamonds – Signify femininity(daughters or female calves)
Triangles – Masculinity ( Sons or Bull calves are a very important part of Zulu culture as they are a measure of wealth)
Zig-Zags – Regiments of War. This depicts the silhouette of the battle shields in formation

The name Isichumo refers to the jug shape of this basket which has a lid fitting over the neck of the basket. For comparison, Beer Baskets (Ukhambas) have a hole left in the top and a lid that fits inside.

These days it is the Zulu women, skilfully working in their homes that make the Zulu Beer Baskets for export around the world. The women are able to assimilate basket making into their normal home routine to supplement, and in many cases, generate their only means of income.

Ethically made entirely from natural materials, Injabulo provides a fairtrade route to new market places based from the UK. This provides our customers based mainly in Britain and Europe with a quality assured range of stunning traditional Zulu baskets from South Africa.

Each basket we supply has a small information tag detailing this and showing the name of the weaver.