Types of Opals
Zulu Basket Show 2007
About African Zulu Baskets
About Amber Jewelry
Israeli Roman Glass Jewelry
Haitian Steel Oil Drum Art
BY MASTER ZULU WEAVERS
South Africa is famous for its
tightly woven Zulu baskets. These hand woven African baskets are a
true art form and are functional, beautiful and decorative as well as a
testament to fine weaving skills. Zulu baskets are considered some of
the most collectable baskets in the world. Master Zulu weavers are
published and collected worldwide.
For information about our
bi-annual African Zulu Basket show, click here
Tribal Art encourages and supports co-operative ventures with African basket
weavers of Zulu decent from the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa to produce handcrafted
museum specimen iLala palm Zulu baskets and Telephone Wire Baskets. 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.
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 and supplementing their
income, and 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,
talking and having a good time.
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.
This is a WONDERFUL opportunity to invest in these
baskets! Much like Native American baskets, Zulu Master Weaver African baskets
are SURE to increase in value DRAMATICALLY in the coming years!
Want to print a
simplified, informative brochure about Zulu African Baskets?
Click here (requires Adobe
the above has
the same general (shortened slightly) information presented below; you may
also wish to scroll down to "commonly
1941 - 2007
world's #1 Zulu basket weaver - a revolutionist who created an ENTIRELY
NEW way of weaving baskets that no one else could duplicate! He
passed away in the middle of June, 2007 from complications of
Tuberculosis. Immediately following his death, his baskets have
increased in value 10 fold. He was a good friend and a talented
artisan. We will miss you... in Zululand, one does not die, they
simply "go to another country...". We wish you well on your journey.
Zanzibar Tribal Art, in
conjunction with a self-funded non-profit group is pleased to be able to
offer our clients a range of Zulu baskets including the highest museum grade
baskets crafted by Master Weavers. We always have a fine selection in
our retail gallery and twice each year we do a large sale, show and
fundraiser where we display hundreds of baskets! If you're interested,
as we only put a very select few baskets online, contact us with your price
range, size, color or specific artist and we'll email you photos of what
baskets are available. Click on this link to view SMALL
selection of our
baskets on our website.
Among the rolling hills of
South Africa in the northeastern coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal (“Place
of Heaven”), Zulu women work at the art of basket weaving. With the advent
of the men moving off to seek work in the cities, the women have taken over
what was once a dying craft, and turned it into an art form of international
acclaim, and a major source of income for many families. Zulu artistry has
been somewhat overshadowed by their unprecedented proclivity in the creation
of weaponry; shields, clubs and spears. Nevertheless, Zulu basketry is
considered some of the most desirable and collectable baskets available and
will soon rival Native American baskets for rarity and value.
The women work from their
homes, where they can assimilate basket making into their normal routine -
giving themselves time to raise their children, work in the fields, collect
water and do other daily chores. Each basket will be unique in size,
shape, pattern, weave and color and is a true collector’s item. All basket
colors are natural and obtained from boiling roots, leaves, berries and bark
or other organic material of indigenous flora.
Thank you for helping to support the
Zulu women craftspeople and children of South Africa by purchasing this
basket. You are helping the poor rural women of South Africa in earning
decent incomes from the fruits of their labors, in order to care for their
move your mouse over the pictures for a description
or click on them to enlarge
1400 - 1900
Descendants of the Nguni peoples of southeast Africa,
the Zulu trace their history back to the 14th and 15th centuries when they
migrated southward and settled into modern day South Africa. During the
1800’s, under Chief Shaka, the Zulus established themselves as a very
powerful people and were feared throughout southern Africa. During
this time it was the men who wove Zulu baskets, however as the British took
the men to work in the mines, women found it necessary to learn to weave the
traditional African Zulu Baskets. Zulu baskets served as functional
utilitarian containers and were typically devoid of any designs or patterns
(they were essentially plain, however the beer basket covers, called Imbenge
were often highly decorated and colorful). Today many patterns, both
based on traditional Zulu or Ndebele beadwork designs as well as contemporary motifs
based on other South African tribes or original ideas have appeared.
The development (and continued elaboration) of natural pigments and dyes as
well as the weavers struggles to differentiate their unique styles has led
to many and varied designs not previously known.
1900 - present day
Around the turn of the 20th century, traded tin and
iron replaced the baskets and by the 1940’s the skill of weaving was all but
lost. Starting with a Missionary, Rev Tjell Lofroth of the Lutheran
wanted to convert the Zulus in the late 60’s, a workshop (called Vukani) was created and
three very old zulu women were found that still remembered how to dye the
materials and weave the baskets (one of these women is still living, and is
currently still weaving: Laurentia Dlamini. From this the baskets refined through the
70’s, 80's and 90's until we have the pinnacle of quality and refinement today.
Regrettably, the techniques and skills may soon again be lost again due to
migration to the cities and AIDS.
Today most of
the Zulu population lives in a 10,000 square mile Zululand reserve along the
Indian Ocean. Once self sufficient, many must now rely on employment
outside of their reserve in nearby towns to survive. Members of the more
than 300 Zulu-speaking peoples reside in KwaZulu (“Place of Heaven”), an
approximately the size of New Jersey. Their economy is based on the
cultivation of crops, tended by the women, and the raising of cattle, for
which the men and boys are responsible. The weaving of traditional
African Zulu Baskets is also a small industry. Most Zulus still live in their
traditional Kraals, an area fenced in by thickets of spiny shrubs that contain
their traditional huts and gardens. Often a homestead will have an
extended family living in close proximity to each other, often far removed
from other clans. Today, as during Apartied, older generations had
little or no education, the South African Government provides a stipend or
retirement to Zulus over the age of 58 (40 is a more common life expectancy)
which averages around $120 US $ a month (enough to live off of, if humbly).
Wealth, Children, and Turn-ons!
As wealth for a Zulu man is determined by how many wives, children and
cattle he has, and thus it is not uncommon for a man to have multiple wives. Of
interesting note is that monogamy is not treated with the same emphasis that
it is in many Western cultures. A man will not usually marry a woman
until she has proved her fertility by bearing at least one or more children
(with by her future husband or another man). Fertility is of paramount
versus paternity. Most Zulu women bear 10 - 14 children in their
lifetime and the survival rate can vary widely, but is typically 75% - 80%.
Rape, regrettably, is extremely common, even today. Also of interest is that bare breasts
on a woman are NOT attractive or a turn-on to Zulu men - they
are attracted to women's calves (the back area of the women's legs below
their knees!) Lecherous Zulu men will sneak a peak and even pinch a
Zulu woman's normally covered calves if he gets a chance! Men would
NEVER consider separating or divorcing a wife, as this is part of his esteem
Marriage & Bride Price
Zulu men still pay a bride price to marry a
Zulu woman (typically and traditionally it is paid in COWS and calves and
occasionally bulls (as
few as 2 - 4 for a rural woman and as many as dozens or hundreds for a
princess), however in metropolitan centers and cities cash and other
valuable are also exchanged. The cows and any calves are the property
of the woman and can be taken by her if she leaves her husband.
The men don't have to pay all the dowry at once. He can marry the
woman and pay the dowry over time - however until the full dowry is paid,
the man cannot visit his in-laws compound and she cannot visit his family's
compound. Any children born can visit both grandparents.
Traditionally women wove a "wedding basket"
that included a design that graphically stated the number of cows that she
would accept as a bride price, whether she would take calves (two calves
equal one cow) or whether she would accept a bull or bulls (usually cows are
preferred because they can produce milk and calves. .while bulls are...
well, just bulls). The basket was delivered to the man. However
it wasn't empty. It contained beer. Since the wedding design is
very complex (very very few weavers know how to do this design and do it
well today), it showed the man that the woman could weave complex baskets
and if she can weave a complex basket she can also weave bowls, mats and
other items - and she could make beer, too!.
Don't consider that a Zulu doesn't have an option if her marriage is not a
happy one: if a Zulu woman's husband is not treating her well or
refuses to get tested for HIV for example, she has the right to shave her
head. This is in essence putting her husband on notice that he needs
to "get a clue". If a woman keeps her head shaved for a full year, she
is considered divorced from her husband and she keeps the kids, the cows -
Making a Living today
As there is no means for most men to make more than a subsistence living,
most men do not live with their families - they often work in the coal,
gold and platinum mines far from their traditional homes. Often the
men will only return several times a year, for a few days at a time
(Christmas, Easter and sometimes around harvest time to help with the
harvest). Thus many men are away from their wives, children and
families up to 360 days a year! As is acceptable, the men often hire
prostitutes, and they incidentally contract HIV (and eventually pass it onto
their unsuspecting wives and children) and eventually die of AIDS or an
opportunistic disease. Some men (and women) also
work in the townships or cities such as Durban as cooks, gardeners or
While these working conditions are often dangerous, they are
not known for paying very much - and the men rarely have any money left
after paying their rent and upkeep (and prostitutes). Take for example the diamond
mines: miners often work 7 days a week, 12 hour shifts in dark, deep
mines. After a long shift, the miners are subjected to a search and
must report to the "glycerin shacks" - where they drink up to two quarts of
glycerin so that their systems will FLUSH out any diamonds they may have
ingested! Amputations, injuries, pneumonia, Tuberculosis and so many
other diseases (not least of which is contracting HIV/AIDS) are so common,
that most Zulu men have very short life spans. There IS hope for the
men, as we also participate in a cooperative that gives rural men the
opportunity to help support their families by weaving Telephone wire
If a woman needs money to
purchase foods in drought years, buy modern essentials like medicines,
coffee, flour or sugar (and the occasional treat of candy or a soda) or even
take the difficult route shopping to a major township or even large city such as
Durban, she must make it on her own - THAT is where our cooperative comes
in! By buying women's baskets NEAR their homes, paying them FAIR,
LIVING WAGES and encouraging quality and sustainability, we are IMPROVING
the lives of these rural Zulu basket weavers. Unfortunately, many younger Zulu women are
leaving their traditional homes and migrating to the city centers and towns
where they eek out an existence living as maids, cooks or clerks.
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
While there are
approximately 2,000 +/- Zulu women (and a very few men) weaving baskets
(inconsistently), our cooperative (a non-profit organization) works with
about 270-600 weavers (+/-), (over half of these are junior or apprentice
weavers, so only about 200 standard weavers); about 100 collector quality
and only about 38 (as of early 2007) are considered “Master Weavers” and of these, only about 15-22 of
these master weavers are
weaving currently/consistently. There are about ten weavers capable of
producing a museum quality basket, however there are currently only four museum World class
grand master weavers.
Skill levels of Weavers
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.
considered a Master Zulu Basket Weaver, a title that is given by fellow
weavers, a woman (or man in rare instances) must show that they have an
overall grasp and skill in ALL aspects of basket production. These aspects
include: Preparing and dying of the materials (palm fibers), tight weaving,
good proportion, smooth transitions and shapes, even design spacing and
overall quality of weave, shape and design. They must also be consistent,
able to produce good baskets in a variety of styles and with consistent
weave (applying the same pressure/pounds per square inch of pressure each
time they pull a thread of Ilala palm. Master weavers are also the only
ones who will undertake the making of larger baskets - as without skill and
a very tight weave, large baskets (over three feet) simply collapse under their own weight.
CONSISTENCY of quality is also a factor. Some standard weavers can produce a
beautiful, master-quality basket one time - and the next basket is just
Standard & Superior Standard Weavers
There are also standard weavers who can consistently weave a very tight,
well formed basket with even spaced designs, however they may not for
example, do their own preparation or dying of materials - thus they are not
given the title of Master Weaver. Some women excel at one step or another
but very few master all the steps in weaving a basket. While there are about
38 master weavers within our cooperative, only about 20 some are currently
Learning to Weave
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 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.
World Class Museum Quality Grand Master Weavers
There are only
several (four to be exact) published, "World Class" weavers (including
Reuben Ndwandwe (deceased as of June 2007), Beauty Ngxongo,
Laurentia Dlamini (sometimes misspelled Laurencia Dlamini) and Vina Ndwandwe.
Bettina Mlotshwa is usually also considered among this group, albeit not
officially) These four weavers are
considered the finest Zulu weavers in the world and are published, in many
museum collections, highly collectable
and known for their individual styles. To be considered for this
honor, they must be approached by several South African museums (and banks) and have
baskets commissioned by them, then they must have a one person show at one
of these museums, be published in a book(s) and lastly, must win the coveted
"Artist of the Year" Award in South Africa. Of the museums of note,
there is the Vukni Museum (the premier museum of Zulu collections and
artwork), the Durban Art Gallery, the South African Arts Center, The Louvre
(Paris), The Met (NYC), The Smithsonian (Washington DC), Bonn (Germany),
Stockholm (Sweden), as well as several large bank collections including the
Standard Bank and the First National Banks of South Africa.
Unfortunately, with the
spread of HIV and AIDS and the tendency of Zulu youth to move to cities and
seek work, there is a lack of interest of younger women in learning the
traditional skills necessary to weave fine quality baskets and this unique
art form may soon be lost. These baskets are an incredibly value and a
solid investment. ALL of our master weave
baskets come with a color photograph of the weaver along with a brief
description of the basket and a brief weaver's biography. Standard
baskets have a tag with the artists name.
Although baskets are being replaced with plastic and tin/aluminum containers
in many Zulu homes now, these woven baskets continue to hold great cultural
significance for the Zulu people and many have once again begun using
baskets for storage of grains, herbs and other items.
Sawubona! (a traditional greeting in Zulu,
which roughly translates as "I see you"). Zanzibar and the non-profit group Tribal Home
support the rural Zulu Weavers of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. Although Tribal Home is non-profit organization, the purpose is a joint
venture with the Zulu weavers in the rural communities for economic
move your mouse
over the pictures for a description or click on them to enlarge
The cooperative that we work with, Tribal
home, is unique in that the cooperative members work with the weavers
month-to-month, year-to-year and get to know them. Members keep track
of weavers, their relations, accomplishments and call many of them friends.
EVERY COLLECTOR AND MASTER woven basket comes with a photo of the weaver and
a brief biography.
The cooperative currently helps to support approximately
600 weavers. In recent years Tribal Home has grown from sourcing baskets from 5 to 15 villages,
spread out over a very large area with Hlabisa (pronounced SH-la-bi-sa)
being the major location. The Hlabisa district encompass 552 square miles
alone. The 15 villages are sprawled out over this area, with the furthest
being an 8 hour ride on a toll road from Durban, then 6 hours drive by 4 wheel drive
on a rutted dirt road each way, and the nearest 1 hour from
the main highway that goes up to the north to Mozambique from Durban.
From Durban it takes about six-eight hours to get to the turn off of the dirt
road, and again, the closest village is about 1 hour on this ROUGH dirt road.
Many of the cooperative's best weavers are “Master Weavers” and we regularly source from these
women, buying finished baskets as well as commissioning baskets.
Weavers are first APPRENTICE
weavers, then JUNIOR weavers, then STANDARD weavers, and finally SUPERIOR
STANDARD weavers and COLLECTOR quality weavers prior to them becoming a MASTER weaver. Very few
(currently there are three) Master weavers go onto being a WORLD CLASS GRAND MASTER
weavers. These weavers are internationally known, collected and
published. These include
Beauty Ngxongo, Rueben Ndwandwe (died
June 2007) and
Bettina Mlotshwa, and Vina Ndwandwe.
Most of our
weavers are married, with their husbands working away from their homesteads
the men work away in the gold, platinum and diamond mines for most of the year (only
returning for a week or two at Easter, Christmas and occasionally to help
with the harvest), they often do not contribute any monies to their
families. It is up to women to grow most or all of the food that the
family needs and to provide for the children.
The sad part about
this venture is that 2 out of 3 black South Africans in the rural
communities where we work have HIV and AIDS and its opportunistic diseases
affect almost everyone, and Hlabisa has the highest ratio in the world. It
is always maddening and with sadness to lose a weaver and a friend as well
as a human being, but it is the way of things and the reality for now in
South Africa. One can only aspire to that the world community at large, as
well as the South African government itself, acknowledge the epidemic and
crisis, without which, little progress will follow. By purchasing an
basket, you are helping to make a difference in these women’s lives. Often
women use the money they earn to supplement their children’s education or
medication. The very best Master weavers who are HIV positive (such as
Beauty) may also be able to afford the Cocktail such as AZT (at a cost of
about $8-$10 per day). This is a HUGE amount of money to most Zulu
weavers, however. There are numerous programs in place, however the
SINGLE BEST THING we can do to help is to purchase these women's baskets at
As many of the weavers are HIV positive, the sale of their
baskets also help them purchase anti-viral drugs. HIV positive
pregnant women can take an anti-viral pill each day (at a cost of about $1
per pill) to prevent her fetus from becoming HIV positive. Women MUST
take this drug for the entire length of the pregnancy and while nursing - every day.
Regrettably, without a consistent income, women often miss doses or take
only half a pill or don't complete the program and thus their children are
born HIV positive or become so through breast feeding.
Schooling & Education
government covers the cost of tuition to school for Zulu children, one pair
of shoes and one school uniform per year, however as a child grows he/she
must purchase new uniforms and or shoes. Children walk up to 20 miles each
way to and from school! Many children drop out by the equivalent of
weavers are paid for their work/baskets
Weavers are paid
by the centimeter on a pay scale determined by the quality of their work and
skill level (up to Grand masters - who can charge by the piece whatever they
want!) Raw materials and bonuses (such as raw ilala palm fronts, flour and sugar) are
also provided and factor into the cost of the baskets. The
pricing structure for our African Zulu baskets is based on the total costs of goods sold
and these include the price that we pay the weaver (always a fair wage,
however it varies by class of weaver), the
shipping costs, the warehousing costs, and the insurance costs. The
cooperative has a zero overhead budget currently (i.e. no payrolls, no
stipends, no travel allowances and no bonuses). Essentially, everyone that
works for the cooperative is a volunteer. A variety of programs are in
place to assist women and children of Zulu weavers. Your purchase of a Zulu
basket helps to fund these programs. We will also accept donations of
cash, clothing, coats and shoes that we distribute to the weavers.
Zanzibar also sells AIDS memorial pins where 100% of the proceeds goes to a
variety of educational programs for Zulu youth and women.
move your mouse over the pictures
for a description or click on them to enlarge
above are of Tholi Mlotshwa, one of our very best master weavers. Her
family (sister and daughter) wove the largest Zulu baskets. The
basket she is holding is less than half finished - the final size was just
over 7 feet tall by 19 feet around. The completed basket is probably the
largest woven in Zulu basket history. Tholi is no longer with us. She died
of AIDS in December of 2003. This huge basket took 16 months to weave and
was completed in November 2002. Since it took more than a year, Tholi had
to move the basket to her hut to continue her progress and to keep it out of
the elements, rain and sun (fading). But when completed, we couldn’t get it
out of the front door so we had to dismantle a portion of her thatch roof to
get it out. There were a lot of supervisors that day providing countless
suggestions and comments. Some suggestions even had merit like why did we
not make a lean-to hut if we knew we were going to make something that big.
And of course, the typical comments such as we were crazy to make something
this big. “Can’t be used for anything...too tall, too wide and too heavy.”
Since it was a marriage pattern (i.e. a wedding basket), the number of cows
requested as dowry for this basket was 160. Nobody gets that many cows
now. And the list went on. Tholi was a
good friend, a wonderful artist and she
will be missed. She has a daughter that is a master weaver, however
she is currently ill with AIDS. The picture of her on the left, with
John, shows how much weight she lost. The basket she had started was
never finished, and her sister finished it as a large bowl. Her sister, who made the second
largest Zulu basket (six feet tall) died of AIDS in 2004.
move your mouse
over the pictures for a description or click on them to enlarge
Every Zulu basket is made by hand, using
indigenous raw materials. The fronds of the iLala Palm (Hyphaene Coriacea) (prounounced
which grows along the North-Eastern Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal Province is
commonly used to weave the fine, watertight baskets. Coils of marsh reeds
and grasses are covered by either a figure-eight or wrapped stitch of the
iLala palm fronds, many of which are dyed colors. ilala palm fronds
when dried have a natural cream color. All basket colors are natural and obtained from
boiling roots, leaves, berries and bark of indigenous flora.
Learning to Weave
Following in the footsteps of their mothers
and grandmothers, young Zulu girls are taught to weave using scraps left
over from their mother’s or grandmother’s basketry work. They
entertain themselves and play, learning the various designs and methods of
basket making. By the time they reach their teens, they are fully
conversant in the age-old art of Zulu Basket weaving. When a village
has a master weaver, she is a champion - passing on her knowledge, skill and
example to younger less experienced weavers. Often we see the finest
baskets coming from villages with Master weavers. When a village lacks
a champion or Master weaver, the baskets are often inconsistent, of poorer
quality and refinement.
Collecting the Materials
The raw materials must be collected, dried
and prepared or dyed. Sourcing the raw materials is a lengthy process
and these preparations can equal the time it takes to actually weave a
basket. For more information on the raw materials and dyes used,
scroll down. A basket is started from the bottom. The coils of
water grasses are wrapped by split iLala palm fronds.
Some types of Zulu
baskets can hold liquid because of the tightness of the coil/weave and the
material used. When liquids (traditionally home brewed beer of about
1% alcohol) are kept in
the baskets, the material swells, making the basket watertight, while the
outside sweats. This keeps the liquid cool by means of evaporation much
like an evaporative (swamp) cooler.
The form and function of Zulu basketry are
closely related. While baskets usually fall into several basic categories,
each weaver has her own style and actual shapes can vary quite a bit.
Occasionally completely unique shapes are created. There are five basic shapes of woven artifacts that are
constructed for domestic utilitarian purposes (and several minor styles
which are actually variations on the other shapes/functions):
(Water Tight) A rigid bulb-shaped container rendered watertight by the tightness of the
coil-weave, and the material used (Ilala Palm). Generally used to serve
low alcohol (about 1%) fermented sorghum or millet beer on ceremonial occasions
as well as when visiting a Zulu household. It is customary to
offer your guests a communal basket of beer upon them visiting your
home. The beer is passed around and is refilled continually;
however each time the container is offered, the size shrinks until
you've overstayed your welcome, drank too much beer and the tiny
stingy pot (about the size of a baseball is brought out. You
know its time to leave, because while Zulus NEVER say "no" they give
mighty powerful hints like this one: which roughly means,
"you've drank most of my beer, its time for you to go home." They are often given as treasured
These baskets, which today often have matching tops
originally did not have tops. A separate basket called an Imbenge was
used to cover the basket when it contained beer - to keep the flies out!
This is the most common basket shape, although even within Ukhambas, shape
can vary widely. Smaller ones are used as
drinking vessels and larger ones for storage of beer for short periods of
time or as the "keg" at a party. When made as a wedding basket
(as shown here a very difficult design to accomplish), the larger the
basket, the larger the bride price that was paid! When filled with beer
and kept in the shade, the unique nature of these water tight baskets is to
condense water on their outside surfaces, then have it evaporate - thus cooling the liquid (we've witnessed beer at a constant
50 degrees inside the baskets while the air temperature was over 100!)
(Water Tight) A rigid, bottle-shaped basket used for carrying
and storing liquids (usually water),
it has a lid, which fits over the neck like a cap. One of the more
difficult designs to create, because of the narrow neck. Typically two
sizes of this style of basket were created - a large one that would be kept
in a hut and hold about 30-40 gallons of water (typically about two days'
worth for a family and its animals) and smaller ones (holding about 5-15
gallons (about 50-150lbs!) that would be used to transport (on top of the
women's heads and from a distance of up to 5 miles each way) water from its
source to the larger container. CURRENTLY, within our cooperative,
only several master weavers are skillful enough to weave this style of basket
and only a few of these are willing to do so! (This shape is the
preferred shape of Beauty - the second (as of June 2007, with Reuben's
passing, Beauty is now THE most famous weaver) most famous and published Zulu weaver
in the world!) Today, most Zulus use plastic jugs to store water.
(Some Water Tight, Some Not) A small,
saucer-shaped bowl, used to cover clay and palm Ukhamba in order to keep the beer
insect and dust-free. We sell contemporary ones, as well as vintage
ones (see examples below). Decoration appears on the convex side. Also
historically commonly made of telephone wire (typically by men). Also
used to hold nuts. Some are water tight for serving moist
foods (such as boiled millet or root-like mash potatoes!) For more information on Zulu Telephone Wire
baskets, click here (coming soon!)
- Winnowing/Grain Basket
(Not Water Tight)
This is a large flat bowl (up to four feet or more wide!) made for carrying and storing grain. They
are also called "dough bowls" because dough for bread are made in them
- often in very large quantities.
Smaller flat baskets are also used for serving food. They are
also used for kneading bread.
- Large grain Basket
(Not Water Tight)
Large baskets are used to hold grain for long periods. The basket is
woven with alternating closed (tight) weave and open weave (breathing
weave) that allows air to circulate so the grain won't mold but keeps
insects out! These large baskets are extremely heavy and only
the best master weavers can accomplish one (inexperienced weavers who
attempt this basket often have them collapse under their own weight -
and so they make large Isisquabetho baskets! These baskets are
typically squat, and either round or bell shaped, depending on the
area and weaver.
(Not Water Tight)
sided bowls, from small to large, sometimes with lid, typically used
to hold, transport or serve food. May also be used to hold
materials for weaving or valuable personal possessions.
be water tight or not)
sided basket with lid used to hold and serve bread, coffee beans,
candies and hold personal possessions.
(Not Water Tight)
The smallest of the Zulu baskets, these are
not woven to be watertight as they are used for the storage of dried
herbs, for both culinary and medicinal use. Thus, you want air but not
insects to be able to circulate through the sides of the baskets.
Young apprentice and junior weavers usually weave these baskets and thus they are quite affordable.
Grandmother Herb Baskets
(Not Water Tight)
The finest (and smallest) of our herb baskets
are woven by older master weavers called “grandmothers.”
Currently there are 15 grandmothers who no longer have the upper body
strength to make larger baskets or are ill with AIDS. When our
cooperative was faced with these women not having an income, even
though they were historically some of the finest weavers, we found a
solution: have them weave INCREDIBLY TIGHT, perfectly round herb
tiny herb baskets with amazing colors!
(Not Water Tight)
A small, saucer-shaped bowl, used to cover
either a beer basket (Ukhamba) or clay pot in order to keep insects
and dust out of the beer. Typically not water tight, but with an open
weave (yet small enough to keep dust and insects out) that would allow
the brewing beer to "breath".
The decoration/finished side appears on the
convex side, and is occasionally adorned with beads. Traditionally
these were woven from grass, and unlike the undecorated (dyed) fronds
of baskets of old, they were highly decorative. Sometime in the
early 20th Century Zulus began weaving them from "telephone" copper
wire and today this has evolved into the Zulu Telephone wire baskets
Some are quite
simple while others are very colorful and elaborate. Not used
any longer and vintage/antique ones are becoming increasingly scarce.
Telephone Wire Baskets
(Not usually Water Tight but older ones can
be/were) - This style of basket,
originally used to cover traditional iLala palm beer baskets, has
grown into a contemporary art form taken to incredible levels of skill
and color. These baskets are actually woven using plastic coated
telephone wire! Amazingly, the baskets are woven from the
outside edge toward the center.
Beautiful and functional, these baskets
are every bit as collectable as the traditional iLala palm baskets
featured above. Zanzibar works with a cooperative made up of
primarily of Zulu men who learn (are taught) to weave these amazing
baskets after having been injured working in the gold and diamond
mines or oil fields of South Africa. 75% of our retail price
goes directly to the weavers. Once Zulus actually downed
telephone poles to get wire. Today our cooperative foots 25% of
the cost of the raw materials while the South African Government
underwrites 25% and the South African Telephone company donates the
other 50%! Visit our gallery for a
large selection of Zulu Telephone Wire Baskets starting around $20 and going to about $200.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR TELEPHONE WIRE BASKETS!
Other related African Zulu items: Zulu Shields, Zulu weapons, Zulu
spears, Zulu beadwork, Zulu knobkerries, Zulu Love Letters, Zulu Matron
hats, Zulu Olivewood spoons (COMING SOON)
an African Basket is more than merely buying a handicraft, but acquiring for yourself
an artistic interpretation of African culture while helping a woman gain
independence. Our weavers and their families thank you!
craftspeople favor symmetry, precision and organization in the designs of
their baskets — the qualities that seem to appear in their social
patterns. Traditionally, Zulu baskets were plain (the color of
dried palm fronds) and only the Imbenge tops were decorated. Today,
baskets are highly sophisticated and have both traditional Zulu and other
South African tribe (such as Ndebele) designs, typically from beadworks.
Many people and weavers believe each design has a specific meaning.
Some of the more popular meanings are below:
- A masculine symbol, also represented on wedding baskets as the number
of steers/cows (and 1/2 cows: calves) paid for a bride price
payment. Two triangles facing each other (in an hour-glass shape)
may designate a woman as entering a marriage as a second or third, etc.
wife and not a primary or first wife.
A feminine symbol. May also designate status of first wife.
Double Triangle -Marriage, man. Double Diamond - Marriage, woman.
Masculine, represents the spear of Shaka or lightning. Also represents
bulls (as in whether a bride will accept bulls as payment on a wedding
||Series of Diamonds - Feminine,
represents the shields of Shaka.
Checkerboards, Whirls or Circles -
Good news, new baby, good rains, plentiful
patterns are typical Ndebele influenced but
also represent the rolling hills of Zululand and may also represent the
firmament (earth) and the heavens.
cross - this outlined, double barred cross
which often resembles a coptic cross is actually a Zulu cross. In
recent times, only two weavers do this design, Olga (who is no longer
weaving) and one other weaver. RARE
||Points Around the Outside
of a diamond -
Shows the number of cattle paid as bridewealth for a wedding. Solid
points represent cows or bulls, while those checkered means that the
woman will also accept two calves in place of a cow or bull.
Various other complexities of this design have other meanings, and such
things as the bride's position in the new family (as first, second or
third wife) and her status within the community can be determined.
Stairway to heaven - this design
represents either climbing a tall mountain or steps to another country
(heaven) and life's journey.
designs - Some weavers have experimented with
pictograph designs, representing the human or animal form(s), shields,
houses, vehicles and other recognizable items.
designs - Many of the Zulus also
experiment with contemporary, fanciful or individual designs.
While many of the designs are based on beadwork designs, often they are
simply decorative, owing to the Western market's desire for what they
THINK is traditional designs. We have purchased or sold several
baskets that were commissioned as "AIDS MEMORIAL BASKETS", that included
unique designs (including the weaver's interpretation of the AIDS
RIBBON). Each weaver is unique and often a particular family, clan
or region will have designs that are specific to them and sometimes
weavers become very well known for specific designs. THE TOP DESIGN
REPRESENTS GUINEA FOWL FEATHERS AND IS A TRADEMARK DESIGN BY Laurentia
- Several weavers have been experimenting with solid colors, most notably
Beauty who has made somewhat of a trademark of her solid colored water
vessels: in solid black, white and even pink! (the black and white
ones are in the New York Metropolitan Museum's collection and the pink one
is in a museum in northern Europe. Traditionally and historically,
Zulu baskets (other than Imbenges which were usually decorated) were
undecorated and of the natural color of the dried palm fronds of which
they are made.
move your mouse
over the pictures for a description or click on them to enlarge
The ilala Palm
A variety of sustainably harvested plant
materials are used to create different types of Zulu baskets. These
include: ilala (pronounced EYE-LA-LA) palm fronds, Isikonko (a grass,
however some five different grasses and reeds are used), Noebe (the bark of the wild banana tress) and Imizi (a water grass). Ilala
palm fronds are collected, pulled into strips, naturally dyed and then hung
to dry as the traditional Zulu women prepare their other materials for
basket-weaving. The palm fronds have a waxy coating which makes them ideal
for the weaving of watertight baskets.
The Ilala palm is, regrettably, no longer
found in much of the Zulu's traditional home areas and where it is, the soil
conditions are inferior and produce a very weak frond, unsuitable for the
best baskets. This is due to
over collecting of the palm along with its purposeful destruction by
Europeans (attempting to subjugate the Zulus). It was probably never
common on the interior, as it is more of a low coastal palm. With this
in mind, one can assume that there was an extensive trade network set up to
bring the material inland. The palms grow to the west, near the coast,
however the vast majority of
the raw Ilala palm fibers that are used by our weavers is sustainably grown
and harvested to the north, near the Mozambique border (many hours drive
away). The ilala palms that grow in this area grow in rich, fertile
soils and produce the strongest, waxiest and best quality palm fronds - and
thus the best for weaving superior quality, water tight baskets.
While SOME poor quality ilala palm still grow
in the region where the weavers live, good quality ilala palm is found
farther north and must be either traded for or provided by the cooperative
to the weavers.
One family sustainably grows the palm fibers and our cooperative
makes twice yearly collecting trips (often making multiple trips) to collect
the dried and prepared materials that the cooperative provides (advances) to the
weavers. The palm trees are no longer killed, but the fronds are
selectively harvested so that the tree continues to grow and live.
The leaves are robust, thick, costapalmate, up to 4 1/2 feet in
diameter on a long petiole, the latter armed with thick, black, recurved
thorns along its margins. The foliage is attractively grey-green with a
whitish bloom on the leaf undersurfaces. When we purchase a bundle
(currently about $15-20 US $), we provide these FREE to the weavers.
This ilala palm is of SUPERIOR QUALITY, with strong, shiny leaves as
compared to other ilala that is locally harvested. It produces a
superior basket and is worth the investment. While we provide this
palm fiber for the weavers, we only receive a fraction of it back - the
weavers use it to produce their own baskets, mats, roofs as well as trade or
sell it to other weavers!
Other uses for the ilala palm
The iLala palm is also used to create a wide
range of other items besides just baskets, including: sandals and mats
and thatching of roofs. But perhaps the most interesting
economic use is in the vigorous local industry in the manufacture of palm
brews: tapped stems and inflorescences produce a sugary sap which is
fermented by natural yeasts into a kind palm wine or beer called ubuSulu or iNjemane
which, when fresh, tastes rather like gingerbeer, however most westerners
think it is quite awful and compare it to drinking, well... urine.
Even though, our non-profit Tribal home essentially purchases and provides
the materials and commission the baskets, the cooperative does not receive a
large percentage of the raw material back in the form of baskets (because
the iLala is also used for other purposes and some of it is used to create baskets
other than for our cooperative (sneaky, but true), the weavers will make
mats and baskets and even dye and sell the fronds to other weavers!. Some weavers try to pass off inferior baskets using local iLaLa
palm fibers, however we turn these down and they are often sold to tourists
or runners who sell them to the galleries and stores in South African towns.
The other materials, including the various
grasses or reeds and dyes are all sustainably harvested near the weaver's homes.
The grasses which typically forms the coils (and is covered by either a
figure eight stitch or simply wrapped with split iLala palm fronds) are
river/swamp grasses from about 15 species, including six primary grasses
(most common: Imizi, Nceme, Itkhantla among others). These
grasses grow in swampy areas or along the streams and rivers.
Different grasses are used either individually or mixed for different types
of baskets or by different weavers. The march and water grasses are
used for watertight baskets because they are resistant to rotting.
Cutting these grasses is extremely hard work
- and is dangerous, too! The weavers often wade up to their calves or
even their knees in water along the edge of rivers filled with hippos and
Little known fact: Hippos actually kill more people in the world every
year than any other animal!
Our cooperative members have met more than one weaver
missing a hand, arm or leg from a crocodile that attacked them while they
were collecting grasses or washing clothes (the Zulus often dismiss this and
simply say "I was nipped by a crocodile!) While this sound truly
dangerous it is not really common - as the women know the cycles of the
crocodiles (when they are going up or down river, and when they come closest
to shore (usually in the early morning and late afternoon when game animals
come to drink) and thus they avoid these times. Bending over, using a
machete to cut grasses at their base take a lot of effort. The women
often travel long distances on foot to collect the very best grasses.
The grasses must then be carefully dried (or in some cases, woven while
All the colors
used in traditional Zulu baskets are natural dyes, derived from organic
sources. Different regions and weavers use different colors and even
different color sources. The individual color’s intensity and
saturation depends on the length of time the raw material is soaked in the
dye bath, the combination of materials used and the expertise of the
and their sources:
There are now between 30-50
known, natural dyes and pigments used in dying Zulu Baskets. Some dyes are closely
guarded family secrets (like hot pink) while others are common knowledge. Not all
weavers dye their own iLala palm. Some Zulu Basket weavers purchase
their dyed iLala palm fronds from other weavers. All dyes take a
considerable amount of time to collect the raw materials, prepare
(dry/pulverize) and boil. Some dyes can be heated in metal containers
while others must be prepared in cast iron or in a ceramic pot (as some dyes react to metal
and would turn black instantly). Some dyes come from commonly
available plants while others can only be collected in remote areas as
certain times of
the year. Some dyes come from single ingredients and others are
complex, requiring many ingredients and controlled boiling. Certain
colors (reds, pinks, toxic black) can significantly increase the cost/value
of a basket. The rarer the color or the more difficult to make, the
more expensive the basket.
COMMON COLORS INCLUDE:
(isizimane) - Roots of tree and or palm fronds crushed and boiled for
up to 7 days. One type of Shiny
Black is called "Toxic Black"
and is made using the boiled toxic leaves of a tree. This dye is
difficult to make and only the most skilled weavers use it.
(mpheghmbetu) - Leaves of a small bush.
- Aloe root.
(umdoni) -The Skin of ripe Umdoni berries or the root
of certain plants including the indigo plant.
- Bark of
Marula tree or wild berries only available for a short time each year
(rarest color). The rarest reds come from the skin of a berry.
Up to 30 pounds of berry skins (100 pounds or more of the full berry) may be
needed to produce one pound of dye which is enough for just the accent
colors of a small basket. Orange (xomisane) - Roots of small hairy-leafed
plant Mustard Yellow (icena) - Paste of wood-ash and water, soaked
overnight, boiled for 5-7 hours.
- Saffron (very expensive
blacks/browns (ijuba) - Soaked in black mud for up to one week.
Green/Blue Greens (mxuba) - Fresh cow dung (don't be grossed out... think of it as
fermented grass! ...and there is NO odor!), soaked in water overnight and boiled with palm leaves
for 4-5 hours. The green color is clearer in the spring due to the diet of
the cows. Blue green colors may have other ingredients including aloe and
indigo roots or other "secret" ingredients added.
Some dyes are
complicated and have multiple ingredients. Sometimes adding an
ingredient (such as aloe, indigo root, a strip of metal, etc.) is very
time-specific and thus very few weavers have the knowledge, skill and
patience to produce the most difficult dyes. Dye color can
SIGNIFICANTLY influence the cost of a basket. Several families are
famous for their dyes and they keep the ingredients a secret.
Very few weavers are full time weavers.
These women (there are only a couple of men who weave traditional Zulu palm
baskets, however men predominate in the telephone wire baskets) are for the
most part subsistence farmers - and during the growing season they are often
too busy planting and caring for their crops, families and livestock to do much weaving. Thus,
most weaving is done seasonally, especially during the dry season.
Even when weaving, women will be conducting their day to day business,
fetching water, taking care of the animals and children, etc.
Weaving all but stops when the men (most of
whom work in far off cities or in the mines or oil fields) return (some
villages the men return once a year for a week or two at Christmas time,
other villages the men may return twice or more times a year). When
the men are back in the village, the women typically hide the fact that they
are weaving, otherwise the men would take all their money. So its
often a game of hide and seek - with the women hiding their partially
finished baskets when they know the men are returning. Don't take this as evidence that the men are in charge,
however. Anyone who has visited a Zulu village can attest that it is most
definitely the women who run things!
Style of stitches used to weave
A variety of stitches are used depending on
the type of basket being produced. Historically bone needles were used,
however today needles crafted from the metal (aluminum) ribs of old umbrellas are
commonly used. The ribs are cut, with one end being flattened with a
hole placed in the center and the other end is made into a sharp point.
You have to love creativity born from dire circumstances! Metal
needles were used for a while, but they rusted and were difficult to sharpen
so were abandoned by most weavers. The most
common stitch used is the figure-eight stitch, however several others
stitches are used on every basket. Different types of
baskets use different types of stitches. Whichever stitches are used,
it takes a steady hand, good eyesight and GREAT upper body strength to weave a Zulu
basket. Most designs require EXACT placement of each stitch, without
gaps or overlaps. It takes a very steady hand an consistent pressure
when pulling the palm fibers so that the stitches are even and not warbly
(that's my own word for you English teachers out there!). The women usually do NOT use a thimble - and thus they have
VERY strong fingers.
Needles and other tools
Today large needles are used, with each
stitch being painstakingly placed, making sure that the free-hand design
will line up properly and not be “squished” or distorted. This
actually takes a HUGE amount of strength and talent to push the needles through the
basket and each stitch has be be guided so that it doesn't overlap. It
is EASY to identify the skill (grade) of the weaver simply by looking at
their weaving - and how many errors, gaps and overlaps you find. It
is not uncommon, especially for standard weavers, to have an apprentice
start the basket and to do the accompanying lid.
Baskets are typically (as with MOST baskets
produced ALL over the world) finished on one side and rough on the other
(often inside). Currently only TWO weavers that we work with produce
baskets that are finished on both sides. This type of weaving,
invented by Ruben Ndwandwe takes 3-4 times longer than the standard weave.
is not only one of the very few male weavers, he is considered one of the
most talented, world-class weavers (died 2007). Busi (one of Scott's favorite
weavers) is the other weaver who has undertaken the challenge to weave in a
manner similar to Ruben and her baskets are steadily improving even though
they are not yet of the same quality as Ruben's (I'm sorry to say that Busi
died in 2004 of AIDS at the age of 28, thus Ruben who is 65 in the year 2006
is the only one ... and he has advanced Parkinson's disease - died June of
07 of TB). This
style of weaving takes approximately 4 times as long to do as a similar
sized master quality water tight vessel with a complicated design. The
finished peace is AMAZING, however.
A good master weaver’s water tight basket can
contain 180 to 300 stitches per square inch of a basket. Baskets can
take weeks or months to finish. There are VERY FEW Master weavers who
are capable of producing the tiny, 19th Century-style finest weaves. The largest basket the cooperative
commissioned (and possibly ever made) took 16 months to weave! This
basket was by Tholi (see story).
ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ZULU BASKETS
SHORT printable history and synopsis of how these baskets are made,
(required Adobe PDF)
1. Why are Zulu
Baskets So collectable?
Zulu baskets are considered some of
the finest woven baskets in the world. Many of these African
baskets are woven
so tightly that they actually hold water. To understand why they
are so collectable, you have to know a little history.
The Zulu people of South Africa
have been weaving baskets for centuries. Up until the 19th
Century (1800), Zulu men did the weaving. However, European
Colonial contact changed that as the men were forced to work in the
mines - and women had to learn to weave. The women did learn and
until sometime between 1900 and 1920 produced basket for day to day
use. As outside materials (cups, pans, containers) made their
way into even the most remote regions through trade, basket weaving
all but stopped. For the most part, South Africa had
smaller populations of people than did Eastern and Western Africa -
thus there were and are fewer items coming from these areas.
Zulu basket weaving was
basically a lost art when a Lutheran Missionary, in an attempt to win
more converts, founded a basket weaving school. He had found
just a handful of women who remembered the craft and was willing to
teach it - even though they hadn't woven a basket in over 30 years!
In the last twenty-odd years
weavers moved up from being APPRENTICE weavers to JUNIOR weavers to STANDARD WEAVERS and
onto COLLECTOR and MASTER WEAVERS. At the peak of sophistication and ability,
over 100 master weavers were sporadically weaving baskets from a total
of just over 2,000 weavers.
At any given time, only a few
weavers obtain the skills to become a master weaver - a title bestowed
upon them by very strictly controlled self governing body of the
weavers. A few weavers weave full time, however most weavers
only weave in their free time - in the dry season when they don't have
crops to tend to. Some weavers produce baskets regularly and
others only occasionally. In any given year, there are usually
only about 20-30 master weavers producing baskets. This number
is shrinking fast due to AIDS and the fact that the younger generation
is being pulled into the cities and are abandoning their traditional
way of life.
Unfortunately, the KwaZulu-Natal
province of South Africa has Africa's highest incidence of HIV and
AIDS. Men are gone much of the year working in the mines and
often bring this disease home to their wives. We have lost MOST
of the Master Weavers in the last few years and most are infected with
HIV. While we get a few younger women wanting to learn basket
weaving, most give it up within the first year or two and very few put
in the time and effort it takes to become a master weaver. The
draw of working in the big cities often draws them away or they just
don't have interest. Thus, our master weavers are being lost and
not replaced. That is NOT to say that the art of basket weaving
will again be lost - it most likely will continue. However, the
BEST quality baskets are becoming very scarce and their likes may not
be seen again.
When you also take into
consideration that most Master Weavers have an area of specialty,
often only producing one of the many types of baskets and within that
often only produce baskets of a specific design or size, you see how
these baskets can become collectable and yet, by many standards, they
are STILL VERY
Thus, they are an art form that
has matured and peaked in the last decade or so and because of limited
production, there is a demand for these high-quality baskets.
Consider for a moment Native American baskets during the early 1900's
- they were relatively inexpensive, however today they often command
prices in the thousand, tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Why? Because few Native Americans know how to weave or are
skilled enough to produce fine quality baskets or are willing to put
in the time and effort that it takes (often months) to finish a
basket. We are at a point - that is fleeting - where good and
great quality baskets are available at very reasonable prices.
2. Why do
baskets range in price so much?
Simply put, you get what you pay
for! ...at least from reputable dealers. Master weavers command higher prices for their baskets and
the larger the basket, the tighter the weave and the smaller the coil, the more difficult the
design or shape and yes, even the rarer / more difficult the color(s) - the more
expensive the basket is. Baskets with difficult, complex designs
(such as wedding baskets) command a higher price because so few
weavers are capable of producing them.
Believe it or not, the quality
of the raw materials such as the iLala palm fronds and the size and
variety of water grasses also play a role. The BEST iLala palm
fronds are collected by us (our cooperative - and are advanced to the
weavers) far to the north, near the Mozambique
border. These fronds are waxy and of strong nature. Local
grown iLala is often inferior, and often dries out and breaks and does
not hold water well. Depending on the grasses used for the coil,
the coils may also be larger or smaller and typically the smaller the
coil, the more expensive the basket. Also, there are a very
select few weavers who are world renown and command higher prices
(think buying a painting by a local artist vs buying a Picaso).
Baskets by apprentice, junior and standard weavers are going to be
less expensive than well known master weavers. Consider also,
that our cooperative rejects MANY inferior standard weaver baskets -
and these baskets ultimately are sold to other dealers.
A very select few weavers become
internationally known and command very high prices. These "World
Class Grand Master Museum weavers" sell their baskets by the piece, rather than by the cm
as the other weavers do. BUYER beware. We've seen MANY
examples of inferior quality baskets being sold as superior or even
baskets by a standard weaver being sold under a master weavers name.
We KNOW the weavers (esp. the Master weavers) work and we can
instantly tell if the basket being offered is not by a particular
artisan. Often dealers won't even know WHO wove a basket and
will put a made-up name on a basket. Our cooperative STRIVES to
be completely accurate with all of our weavers works and their names.
THAT is why we put a photo of the weaver (often but not always of the
weaver actually holding THE basket) on all our baskets and give a
brief biography. We can OFTEN give a more detailed biography on
our master weavers upon request.
When considering prices, you
MUST compare similar baskets. This is often not easy
to do. For example, take two baskets of similar quality and size
from closely skilled weavers. Now look at the COLORS of the
baskets - the one with earth tone colors sells for $150 while
the other one has reds, purples and violets and its price is MORE THAN
DOUBLE at $350. The natural dyes that are used to
produce the reds, pinks, purples and violets are much more difficult
to source (limited to a few short weeks a year when the berries are
ripe and available) and are very difficult to make - so they are
considerably more expensive than more standard colors. Many
colors are also known only to one family or small group of weavers and
are considered tightly guarded secreats. Thus even
colors can have a dramatic influence on the price of a basket!
Not all Zulu basket are alike.
Here's some tips and guidelines when evaluating a basket you are
considering purchasing (we HIGHLY recommend you see baskets in person
- be VERY wary of buying baskets in an auction or online unless you
can evaluate the basket and return it if you are not happy.
- First you must consider if
the basket appeals to you. Is it pleasant to look at? We
strongly suggest you first view the basket from a distance - as it
would usually viewed when first entering a room. If you
initially look at the basket from very close-up, it may not give you
a true appreciation for the baskets shape, form and design.
- Now consider the
structure of the basket and the tightness of the weave.
Squeeze the basket. Does it feel firm? Does it
feel spongy? The sturdier the basket, the more experienced the
- Look at the execution of the
weave. Is it even throughout? The coils should be uniform in
size and thickness from the top of the basket to the bottom.
- Look at the finesse of the
weave; is the individual stitches on the coils of the basket made
with small, thin strips or wider strips of Ilala palm? Look at
the tightness of the weave. What is the thickness of the coil?
The larger and / or taller the basket, the thicker the coil must be
or else the basket will eventually collapse within itself. If
the thickness is even and small, this means that the weaver has had
to stitch the coil with the grass reeds being wet when they are soft
and more pliable. Weaving "wet" is harder than working "dry"
as most weavers use dried strips and with thicker coils as it is
easier and faster to complete.
- Look at the design. Is
it complex? The flame pattern or zigzag is the easiest to weave. If
the bands are continuous, are there any further embellishments to
the pattern? How many color changes are there in the bands? The more
colors means the weaver has to make more varieties of dye bath and
use multiple threaded needles or change out the color of the fronds
being used. All these steps take more time.
- Look at the uniformity in the
design. Are the symbols and motifs repeated evenly? Are the
forms pleasant? Is the overall impact of the design on the
basket complementing the basket shape?
- How many colors has the
weaver incorporated into the basket? Some colors take more
time and are much more difficult to execute, thus they are more
- Look at the lid. How well
does it fit? Is the lip oversize? Many standard weavers often
let someone else or a junior weaver make the lid. Check the
design on the lid. Does it match and fit into the overall
basket design? Look at the neck of the lid (the inside rim of
the lid). Is it clean? Are there any exposed wrapping?
WHEN WAS THE BASKET MADE?
As strange as it sounds - you
must also consider WHEN the basket was commissioned and finished and
when it was "purchased." The exchange rate of the US dollar vs.
the South African Rand is highly volatile (and not in the US's favor
currently). Thus a basket commissioned and purchased by someone
five years ago (say when the exchange rate was 12.4 Rand to 1 US dollar) is going to be
less expensive than one purchased this
year (while varied, there is approx. 5.7 Rand to the Dollar - thus a
basket costs roughly 2x what it did five years ago!) simply because the exchange rate was more favorable five years
You would not walk on to a car
lot and expect a used Toyota to cost the same as a brand new Ferrari.
Think for a moment: Say you purchased your house five years ago
- has it gone up in value? Of course it has! So have
Buyer beware! We GUARANTEE the quality of the baskets we sell.
Before buying a basket - PLEASE educate yourself. If you have
specific questions or want to learn the difference between various
qualities of baskets come into our gallery or call us and we'll be
happy to discuss it at length with you.
COST OF GETTING THE BASKET TO
You must also take into
consideration all the efforts it takes to get baskets from the remote
areas where they are woven to where you live. This includes
vehicle and fuel costs, gifts and bonuses for the weavers, the cost of advancing
materials and deposits to the weavers, as well as the cost of the
armed escorts (consider this: when traveling in remote areas
with tens of thousands of dollars in cash you MUST have armed guards
with every member of your team and with every vehicle. The
shipping costs are also often significant - we ship our baskets by
container and the baskets must be carefully packed so that they are
well protected from humidity and moisture.
The cost of
overhead of the gallery or store the basket is purchased from will also factor into the price (how
much does someone in a small town pay per square foot of rent versus a
gallery in Manhattan?)
In addition to quality, you must
also consider how many hands a basket passes through
from the producer to the end consumer. Even within the big
cities of South Africa, a basket often passes from the weaver to a
local representative who sells their basket to a runner who sells this
basket to someone else who sells it to a gallery who ultimately sells
it to the customer. Here in the states few galleries or stores
buy directly from the weavers and when they do, they often buy the
baskets that were either rejected or sold in the local market because
they didn't meet our or other's strict quality standards.
THE BASKETS THAT ZANZIBAR OFFER
BYPASSES THESE "MIDDLE MEN". Essentially our baskets are
purchased through a cooperative directly from the weavers and a
significant portion of the retail prices goes back to the weavers.
For us to acquire the best baskets, they must commissioned - giving
the weaver a deposit toward the finished product and often more money
as the baskets are completed (some of which takes months and months to
make). We sell our baskets all year round in our gallery,
however twice a year (in the spring and fall) we have a special three
day sale and benefit where we showcase hundreds of baskets and offer
them at very favorable discounts. If you'd like to learn more
about how the weavers benefit, see the question "How are the women
AVERAGE COSTS OF BASKETS
What can you expect to pay?
Small herb and apprentice baskets range from the $12 to $24 range.
Standard weaver baskets (depending on size and style) range anywhere
from $24 - $200 (usually in the $80-$140 range but can go over $200
for larger baskets). Master Weaver baskets start at around $180
(sometimes lower) and go over $3,000.00, depending on size,
style, quality and complexity of weave and how well known the weaver
is. Most of the master, museum quality baskets we commission
sell between $180 and $600.00.
We have historically
commissioned some very large (over five feet tall) baskets (over
$3,000). While we still stock some of these larger baskets, we
are less likely to commission them these days because of their expense
and the fact that very few weavers are living that are capable of
producing them (as of October 2006, only TWO living weavers can make
baskets over four feet tall). Very likely, large baskets will become
increasingly scarce in the years to come. If you are interested
in large baskets or would like to consider commissioning one, please
contact us! (Tribal Home has commissioned the largest, second
largest and third largest Zulu baskets ever made. The largest
was over seven feet tall and nineteen feet around and took 17 months
to create. One family created these huge baskets, regrettably
the mother and two daughters have died since 2004.
If you have a particular style,
pattern, color, favorite weaver or size of basket you are looking for,
please let us know and we'll be glad to send you photos of a few of
the HUNDREDS of baskets we have in stock and or arrange to have the
basket(s) that match your interest(s) in our gallery for you to
review. Large Zulu baskets for museums and corporate or public
art display (loan), sale, rental and leasing also available.
Custom commissioned pieces MAY also be available. Please contact
Scott Farrell at (916) 443-2057.
3. What does
it take to become a master weaver?
To be considered a Master Zulu
Basket Weaver, a title that is given by fellow weavers, a woman (or
man in rare instances) must show that they have an overall grasp and
skill in ALL aspects of basket production. These aspects
include: Preparing and dying of the materials (palm fibers),
tight weaving, good proportion, smooth transitions and shapes, even design spacing and
overall quality of weave, shape and design. Master weavers are
also the only ones who will undertake the making of larger baskets -
as without skill and a very tight weave, large baskets simply collapse
under their own weight. CONSISTENCY of quality is also a factor.
Some standard weavers can produce a beautiful, master-quality basket
one time - and the next basket is just horrible.
Thus, there are standard weavers
who can consistently weave a very tight, well formed basket with even spaced
designs, however they may not for example, do their own preparation or
dying of materials - thus they are not given the title of Master
Weaver. Some women excel at one step or another but very few
master all the steps in weaving a basket. While there are about
40 master weavers within our cooperative, only about 15 are currently
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 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.
4. Are the
materials for the baskets sustainably harvested?
Yes. In actuality, few of
the weavers harvest their own ilala materials. Why? Basically,
because of over harvesting of the iLala palm by the Zulus combined
with the purposeful destruction of the traditional groves by Europeans
during the 19th century (in an attempt to subjugate the Zulus and make
them less self dependant) has resulted in very few Ilala palms growing
naturally in their traditional areas. Good news, though... one
family (about 4 - 8 hours from the cluster of villages that we buy most
of our baskets from) sustainably grows and harvests the fronds from
the Ilala palm trees. The trees are not killed. The
South African government strictly controls the harvesting of iLala
palms (both for basket crafting as well as for the production of palm
wines/beer). The various grasses and dyes that are
secondary to the production of the baskets are typically collected (or
grown) by the weavers and are all sourced from non-endangered plants.
5. How are the
The cooperative that we support
buys and commissions baskets directly with the weavers. Baskets
are paid for by cash (and sometimes trade goods like flour and other
basics when requested by the weavers). Basket prices are
determined by the weavers ability, quality of the basket, colors and size.
Our weavers are given the finest raw materials of iLala palm fronds
free of charge. They receive a deposit from us when we
commission the basket(s) and are paid in full upon the completion of
the basket(s). Bonuses of flour and sugar are also given.
Baskets are measured in
centimeters around the outside. A certain level
of weaver for a certain style of basket will be paid X amount per cm.
Women are very fairly
compensated for their work.
Over the years the
cooperative has increased the amounts paid per cm. The
cooperative members usually give the weavers a deposit when requesting
a specific size basket. Weavers are often fiercely independent,
however and don't always take direction well (or at all) - they
produce what they want when they want it. Some weavers are very
dependably while getting others to produce a basket is like pulling
teeth! The weavers know when the cooperative's twice yearly
buying trips are and usually finish their baskets to coincide with
these visits. While the cooperative has two main collecting
trips per year, we actually have representatives visiting most of the
weavers every month. This consistency is important because if
the women have an emergency and need funds we are generally available.
A runner is usually sent ahead
to the various villages letting them know in advance when the
cooperative's caravan will arrive. Often women from remote areas
will congregate at their homesteads or village's master-weavers
residence, chiefs residence or at a pre-determined location, awaiting the cooperative's buyers.
This is a fun time, often relatives and friends seeing each other and
catching up on gossip and news. Usually one women acts as the
head of a group of women and designates which weavers are seen and
what they will be paid (based on their skill level).
Tape measures and or strings are fitted around
the baskets and then are laid out along the tailgate of one of the
pickup trucks - with markings CLEARLY designating how much money will
be paid for how many centimeters. Weavers are paid in CASH.
The cooperative works as a
non-profit with volunteer labor and staffing.
has a zero employee overhead budget currently (i.e. no payrolls, no stipends,
no travel allowances and no bonuses).
The retail cost of the baskets are determined by the amount the women
are paid, the shipping costs (via sea cargo), warehousing costs and
insurance costs plus a modest markup. A significant percentage
of our retail price
(usually 75%) of the price paid goes directly back to the weavers.
Zanzibar always has a fine
selection of Zulu baskets in stock and also hold regular shows, sales and benefits where
the majority of the net
proceeds goes back to the weavers and the various programs the
cooperative has put into place. Participating members of the cooperative purchase their own airfares,
provide their own lodging and travel (vehicle) expenses on the buying
trips to South Africa and take no salary or compensation.
The cooperative has put a variety of programs into effect to assist
women and children of Zulu weavers and your purchase of a Zulu basket
helps to fund these programs.
6. Do you ship
from South Africa?
Not really, no. The
baskets that we offer for sale are all from inventory that is
warehoused here in the United States (most in California although the
cooperative also maintains a small warehouse in New York).
Zanzibar Tribal Art Gallery usually maintains a reasonable inventory
and twice each year has a large show, sale and benefit where hundreds
of baskets are featured. The cooperative typically does not ship
baskets directly from South Africa to clients, as shipping baskets via
air is expensive. The baskets normally arrive via one of two sea
containers from South Africa to the states (which can take from 5
weeks to several
months) which Tribal home ships each year. In rare instances the
cooperative can and do
ship baskets from South Africa. We CAN ship baskets to most
countries in the world. Shipping baskets CAN be expensive as we
DOUBLE box these baskets to protect them. Large baskets often
are oversized and must be shipped via TRUCK and not UPS, FEDEX, USPS
Mail or DHL.
7. How will I
know which weaver made a particular basket?
All master woven baskets come
with a laminated card that features a photograph of the weaver, her
(his) name and brief description of the basket and bio of the weaver.
Additional biographic information is available for most of our
weavers. All standard woven baskets come with a description card
featuring the type of basket and the weaver's name. Baskets are
not signed, however many master weavers have a distinctive style that
is instantly recognizable to us and to those familiar with their work
(we've seen many poor imitations crafted by less experienced weavers
sold as well known master weaver's work by other dealers. Since we KNOW the
weavers very well, we guarantee the authenticity of the baskets we
sell). Beware: Many baskets sold in South African may have
made up names attached or no names at all! All of our standard
weaver baskets come with a tag with the weavers name. Junior
weavers and grandmother herb baskets do not come with a name as they
are impossible to distinguish oftentimes.
8. How tight
is the weave of a good basket? How many stitches per square
Oh, tough question! There
are several weaving styles and tightness of weave varies between the
different style of baskets, materials being used as well as from
weaver to weaver. A good master weaver's water tight basket can
have 180 to 300 (and sometimes more!) stitches per square inch of
basket! Some basket types (and sizes) have different weave
frequencies and tight weaving does not always designate the quality of
a basket. You should also consider the consistency of the width
of the iLala palm fronds and the tightness of the coil.
9. How long
does it take to weave a basket?
Oh, another tough question!
Again, this depends a lot on the weaver, their skill, the type and
size of basket and how many hours each day a weaver dedicates to
weaving. Often collecting, splitting and dying/preparing the raw
materials takes as long as it actually takes to weave the basket.
Our smallest herb baskets made by our master
grandmother weavers can be done in less than a day. A typical
herb basket by an apprentice or junior weaver can take three or four
days. Smaller standard baskets can be woven in a few weeks while
larger baskets take months to finish. Obviously finer woven,
baskets with complex designs or larger baskets take longer.
The largest basket
we've had (and we think the largest EVER made) took 17 months to
complete, pretty much dedicating 8 plus hours each day, 6 plus days a
week! If you purchase a basket from us, we can give you an
approximate length of time it took to weave a given basket.
Not all weavers are full time weavers (weaving five or six days a
week, eight hours a day). Most Zulu basket weavers weave
seasonally and between their other chores - thus some work a four or
five hours each day while others work more or less. Obviously
work in the garden and the children come first. Sometimes
collecting, preparing and dying the materials can take as long or
longer than the actual weaving of the basket!
10. Why do
some of the Zulu women appear to have red or white faces? And what's up
with them SMILING SO BIG?
The red or white that many Zulu weavers
have on their face is a natural clay ocher that acts as a natural sun
screen. As to why they smile so big (with full white teeth
showing and their eyes open so wide) is that Zulus don't usually smile
and when they do they tend to REALLY exaggerate it. While to
some people it might seem stereotypical its just the way they smile.
We should all be so happy (or at least appear so!). Trust us,
getting a Zulu to smile isn't always easy!
11. Will these
baskets be around in 10, 20, 100 years?
The art of making Zulu baskets
was almost lost twice in the last 200 years. It is doubtful that
it will be lost again, HOWEVER - we've seen a real renaissance in
basket making in the last 20-30 years. Consider Native American
Indian Baskets about 100 years ago: to meet the demand of
traveling tourists, baskets got smaller, more sophisticated in design,
colors were improved and some of the very finest work was done.. how
many Native American weavers are actively weaving today? A few
hundred, MAYBE? More likely dozens if that.
Zulu basket making won't be
lost, however the VERY FINEST baskets have been made and are being
made in the last ten years. 2/3rds of our weavers are HIV
positive and many of the older weavers that are not HIV positive are
no longer weaving due to either illnesses or because they received
stipends (pensions) from the South African Government (about 120 US $
per month - enough to survive on without making baskets). We're
losing weavers every day of AIDS. Without the best weavers to
encourage and teach the younger generations, we may very well be in
the GOLDEN years of Zulu baskets. Certainly the two most
collected basket weavers (Beauty who is HIV positive and Rueben who is
65 and has Parkinson's disease) won't be with us much longer.
NOTE: Rueben passed away of anti-biotic resistant TB in June
2007 and his baskets increased in value ten fold within the few days
of his death.
MATE! Beer, beer, beer... are Zulus obsessed with beer?
Low alcohol beer (about 1%
alcohol) made from
either fermented sorghum or millet or a combination of both is a constant in
Zulu homes and homesteads. Remember, much of the Zulu homeland
is at a high elevation - 6,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level and it
is usually cold (note all the weavers wearing blankets) and the mild
alcohol probably helps keep them warm!
Beer is offered whenever a
visitor comes to a Zulu home and is served at special occasions such
as weddings and funerals. Traditionally each home has a large
terracotta (clay) fermenting pot in the back corner of the hut (today,
many of these traditional pots have been replaced by plastic tubs).
Water, either millet or sorghum and a starter yeast (not the type used
in brewing beer, but usually just a cooking yeast is added and is
allowed to ferment. When the pot gets low, more water, grain and
occasionally yeast is added - thus the concoction varies in intensity,
flavor and consistency from day to day.
What does it taste like?
Well, it really doesn't taste like beer in most Westerner or
European's taste buds opinions. Its been compared to, well...
best not to say. But it is NASTY.
Typically the beer is ladled out
of the fermentation pot (historically it would have been with a hand
carved wild olivewood ladle, however today it is usually a tin or
metal ladle), strained through an ilala palm woven strainer and put
into a 12 - 15" tall bulb shaped Ukhamba (beer basket) that acts as a
communal (everyone shares) mug. The Ukhamba is the most commonly
woven style of Zulu basket.
The Ukhamba is passed around
while everyone visits and catches up on gossip. As the container
is emptied, more beer is served, usually in progressively smaller
Ukhambas... until one has overstayed their welcome and the "stingy"
basket comes out (which is tiny... about the size of a baseball!).
This means it is time to go - you've overstayed your welcome and drank
too much beer!
In Zulu culture, Zulus RARELY
say "NO", as it is considered rude. They often will say YES even
when they know that they mean NO just to save you both the
embarrassment. This often confuses Westerners who are often
frustrated by this always wanting to appease. If you overstay
your welcome, fear not - your hosts will probably visit you tomorrow
and drink all of your beer!
Beer is common, usually home
brewed and thus can (like everywhere in the world) become a problem
and some Zulus are basically drunkards. Sad, but true.
13. Are Zulu
baskets really water tight? They will hold water and won't leak?
For the most part, yes!
However, there are several different types of Zulu baskets and weaving
stitches. The most common stitches are the figure eight (which
if done correctly, is basically water tight) and the herb basket
stitch, which is not (this weave is actually suppose to allow air to
circulate but keep bugs out of the grain baskets, herb and medicine
Essentially, if good quality
grasses (which are typically marsh grasses and resistant to rot) and
iLala palm is used and the weave is done tightly, if you pour liquid
into the basket, the palm fibers will absorb a tiny bit of the liquid,
swell and thus the baskets will hold water. Some baskets
are specifically to fetch or store water, while others are used to
temporarily store or serve beer.
14. What are
some of the challenges facing collecting these baskets?
Challenges are many and varied
and go beyond the challenges of importing baskets made of organic
material into the US! Some of the challenges include:
- Traveling in remote areas
with large amounts of cash. We have to take special
precautions and hire armed guards. Running roadblocks and
avoiding being kidnapped is just some of the challenges faced each
collecting trip. We also are not very specific about which
day(s) we will be visiting but have to be more round about (we'll be
there sometime next week). Fuel and flat tires are also a big
- Traveling to remote villages
(often requiring HOURS of 4-wheel driving with no roads on often
very steep inclines!
- Flat tires (on one of Scott's
collecting trips to Africa, he had 13 flat tires in three days!
No, really! ... and that was on ONE vehicle.
- HIV and AIDS: We've
lost many friends, artisans and weavers to these devastating
diseases which are rampant in South Africa.
- CONSISTENTLY buying baskets
from the weavers so they have a regular income. Currently the
cooperative has a member who makes monthly buying trips to most of
the villages. Usually two trips a year are made by cooperative
volunteers from the states, to finalize the shipments and visit the
- Finding quality weavers that
won't just take the deposit(s) and materials and sell the baskets to
someone else! Most weavers (esp our Master weavers) are honest and produce the baskets
that are commissioned, but some are lazy and just want to get paid
for doing nothing! We also, regrettably, lose some weavers
(some move away, others pass on).
- Finding the weavers:
Sometimes weavers go off for a wedding or funeral the week we're
there.. so we may not receive a basket for up to a year after it is
- Buying the supplies:
Since most weavers don't have access to the iLala palm fibers that
most baskets are made from, the cooperative has to source these
materials and advance (give) them to the weavers prior to
commissioning a basket. The palms are grown a great distance
from the villages.
- Doing business in a country
where poverty is rampant. On our buying trips in the bush we
MUST hire a security detail as a deterrent (when carrying large
quantities of cash you must be protected from robbery and kidnap).
- Getting the weavers to
produce what size and color baskets you want (can sell).
Weavers are often very independent and often it's a dance to
convince them to produce what sells.
- Working with an unfavorable
exchange rate (a few years ago the exchange rate was approx. 12 plus Rand
to the US dollar - today it is closer to 5 - 6 Rand for 1 dollar - thus
baskets cost over twice as much as they did just a few years ago
just based on the weakness of the dollar!)
- Dealing with bureaucracy in
exporting the baskets from South Africa.
- Arranging for packing of the
baskets so they won't be damaged or mold on the long journey from
Africa to the US. Once the baskets arrive, they must go
through a variety of checks, including by Fish and Wildlife, Dept.
of Fish and Game, US Marshals, and clear Customs . Organic
material must go through fumigation and or cold storage prior to
being allowed into the US. Sometimes containers must be open
and inspected, X-rayed or go through an MRI-like scan.
- Making sure we
commission/source the correct number and size of baskets. For
shipping costs to be minimal, we must FILL the two containers a year
the cooperative brings in - thus we MUST have our weavers follow
through and give us the baskets we commission or there is empty
space in the container and ALL the baskets must absorb this
increased shipping cost.
- Alcoholism. Sad, but
true. Even with only1% alcohol, Zulu beer does have a habit of
robbing the productive lives of some of the most talented weavers.
- HIV/AIDS - roughly 66% (2 out
of every 3) of our weavers are HIV positive and each year dozens die
of AIDS or related illnesses.
stipends/retirement. Post Apartied, the South African
government grants all Zulus over the age of 58 years a monthly
stipend. While this is a good thing, as many of the older
generations had little or no education under Apartied and thus are
not skilled workers, this small stipend is just enough to live off
of (about $120 US a month) and it is enough incentive that many
older weavers stop weaving and just relax - well, good for them but
of course it takes some of the most skilled weavers out of the pool.
- Not selling enough baskets!
We'd LOVE to sell more. The more baskets we sell the
more people we can make a difference in their lives! We
currently collect baskets from about 15 villages - and there are
many other weavers in other villages that would like to sell us
baskets - however several factors are limiting us: demand for
more baskets, the ability of a master weaver to take charge and
train other weavers so that their quality is of the caliber we
require, access to these often remote villages and ability to help
everyone that we'd like to. How can you help? Buy a
...and after ALL the above
(and more!) is it worth it? Yes. ...and you know why?
Because when it comes right down to it... selling these baskets HELPS
the people (the Zulu) who weave them live better, more fulfilling
For information about our
bi-annual Zulu Basket show, click here
For more information on ZULU TELEPHONE WIRE
BASKETS, click here
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