I am really happy to be working with this ladies co-op, this is a new range, and I thought it prudent to share in their "words" how they produce this wonderful work, its truly African Craft at it's finest!
The ladies use Raffia and banana stalk locally known as “bukeddo”to create these coiled woven baskets. Raffia is a light fibre that is removed from a long palm-like leaf usually grown in the forests and the bukeddo is harvested from the banana plantations. Raffia ‘s length makes it an ideal material for basket weaving. Raffia can be dyed into almost any color. It will take 2 and half days to make one 22’’ basket. As a weaver starts from the center of the basket working her way out some of the designs featured here represent true mastery.
The weaving skill is traditionally passed on to children at the tender age of 9 years from mother/ grandmother. And the finished pieces were either used for fruit gathering, food preparations or given away as wedding gifts.
Banana Fibre Baskets
Go bananas for these banana fibre and raffia baskets! Banana trees are ubiquitous in East Africa and everywhere you go you will see people carrying bunches of the green peel bananas (matoke),which are a staple food. Bananas provide food while their trees provide raw materials for cooking and for craft making. The stems from the leaves are used within the basket while the fibre from the bark of the plant is used to create the exterior design of the basket.
Banana fibre is a robust material that is ripped from the sides of a banana tree.
Different tree species have different colours or textures that are better suited for craft making so the colour can vary from golden honey shades to dark browns and blacks. Spotting of colour also occurs naturally.
Combinations of banana fibre and raffia are used in this range. Commonly natural and black raffia are contrasted against various dark and light shades of the banana fibre.
Criss Cross Baskets
The artisan first weaves a basket using a basic saata technique to create a skeleton frame for which to work. She then pulls fresh raffia over five or six rows of coils to create blocks of flat color. To add variation she can pull certain colors over fewer rows or she can pull additional raffia over her blocks of colour. Palm leaves, cut thinly can also be inserted to create unique patterns.
The ‘Criss Cross’ technique requires triple the work of a saata or raffia basket , the artisan first ties the inner coils of a basket together to create the shape of the basket. She then pulls fresh raffia over five or six rows of coils to create blocks of flat colour. The next stage is pulling third or forth colors over these blocks that cross over each other creating this unique design.