The local craftspeople of Africa have perfected the art of basket making over centuries of necessity.
From the huts they live in, boats they fish in and traps they use to catch food, to all the smaller pieces like baskets, bowls, trays, mats, containers, strainers, hats and so on.
African baskets can be porous or watertight, flexible or rigid. The use of baskets, the materials available to make them, the skill and family tradition handed down over generations makes each piece wholly unique and identifiable down to the actual village, in some cases even family that created them.
As well as the infinite designs and many materials used to make these beautiful pieces there are several weaving methods that most African weavers utilise.
Coiling, plaiting, braiding, twining and weaving are all employed by these local artisans based on what material is available and what the piece is to be used for.
Every African community has a ‘master weaver’ who pass on their skills to the younger aspiring generation of weavers. The young weavers sit with the ‘master weaver’ or older relative and learn directly the ancient craft of basketry starting with sewing the bottom of the basket while the older relative builds up the sides giving it the unique shape and strength. They learn how to keep the weave consistent, how to design complex patterns, create unusual shapes and how to use different materials to create truly unique pieces.
This intimate way of working often gives objects a particular meaningfulness and evokes strong memories of loved ones which helps link generations.
African women are amongst the hardest working women in the world. They are guardians of their children’s welfare and have definitive responsibility to provide for them materially. They are the household managers, providing food, nutrition, water, health, education, and so much more than many other women in the developing world.
Basket weaving provides employment opportunities for these women and has contributed to many of them becoming the breadwinner of the family. Many non- profit groups are helping rural women practice their art whilst making a living. This is helping the balance of gender equality as well as providing a living for their families.
At Orient House we work as hard as we can to ensure that we trade with socially ethical partners and individuals and that all of our pieces are sourced from sustainable materials to assist developing nations. So many traditional art forms are disappearing as consumers rush to buy the ‘latest’ trends which are often discarded almost as quickly as they were purchased.
We think it’s way beyond time to go back and revive some old traditions and provide a source of livelihood to those who need our support around the world whilst adding some beautiful handmade fascination to your home.