Our Guide: Basket Weaving in Ghana
Basket weaving in areas of Africa has long been a source of much needed income for families and communities. The Upper East Region of Ghana in West Africa, suffers from two extreme tropical seasons; exceptionally hot and dry from mid-October to March and rainy during the months of April to October. Most of the communities in this primarily rural area live in great poverty and rely on subsistence agriculture for survival. With farming only happening during the rainy season, families have to look for other sources of income at other times. Some are able to get by rearing small animals, while others travel south to find menial jobs. The majority, however, engage in basket weaving.
The Basket Making Process
Although a traditional craft associated with the women of these communities, many men have taken up the skill to provide extra income to feed their families and pay school bills. The African baskets are made from Veta Vera grass which grows abundantly in more southern parts of Ghana. Once picked, the grass is transported north to be sold to the weavers. The villagers are usually part of wider weaving co-operatives, but many make the baskets in their homes due to the lack of adequate infrastructure in the area. The weavers use cast iron or aluminium vats to boil the grass and mix it with plants, minerals or non-toxic fabric dyes to create the beautiful varied hues. Locally sourced leather is then carefully stitched onto the handles of some of the baskets to finish off the look. These baskets can take up to 3 days to make since everything is done by hand.
Bolga baskets, also known as African market baskets, are exclusively made by the indigenous people of this northern region of Ghana. They were originally used as a sieve to filter millet malt to make an alcoholic drink called Pito. Nowadays, with growing international interest, basket weaving has developed into more of an economic venture. As well as the Bolga basket, a range of styles of African baskets have begun to be woven in this region. They range from baby moses baskets to pet basket beds in a variety of different patterns and colours.
With many people around the world now shifting their focus to more sustainable and eco-friendly purchasing, it is hoped that these natural products and the skills of these craft producers will assist in alleviating poverty and create more economic opportunities for the people of this region. We also sell a range of sustainable Handmade Moroccan rugs to support these talented artisans.
It is by encouraging and supporting the production of these baskets, through our online sales, that we are able to play a small role in helping towards creating sustainable basic livelihoods for these talented artisans and their communities.