Zanzibar Home Page

  Tongan Plateau Winnowing Baskets

from Zambia and Zimbabwe!

Zanzibar offers a wide and ever changing selection of handcrafted, fairly traded Tongan Plateau Baskets from Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Due to civil unrest in the regions where they are made, sourcing these baskets has become EXTREMELY difficult. Our inventories are LIMITED. Please call before placing orders.  Visit our gallery for the best selection (please note:  Very few are on display in our gallery - most are in our stockroom - so ask to see them!)

Fairly traded from a Tongan women’s group in the Gwembe Valley in Zambia and Matabeleland in Zimbabwe. The women who create these amazing baskets live in the remote southern part of the country which is frequently ravaged by famine. Mostly subsistence farmers living in rural areas, the women weave these baskets from twigs and palm fronds. These shallow baskets are traditionally used in the flour making process for winnowing and storage of grain. You can use these baskets for decoration, or as a way to store and display food, toys, magazines - just about anything.

Plateau baskets are made on the Plateau districts by BaTonga (Tongan) women living on the highlands of the Southern Province of Zambia and in Zimbabwe.

The Baskets are woven Natural Fibers - fronds of the ilala and malala palm trees.  The natural color of the dried palm fronds is straw, however darker colors (ranging from red brown to deep browns are possible by dying the fronds in dyes derived from the roots and bark of the Umnyi tree.  It takes from four days to two weeks to collect the  materials, dye a basket and weave it. 

Basket making is the main economic craft of the province, so domestic cultivation of these now rare palm trees, from which these baskets are woven, is promoted.  Women are the main beneficiaries of basket-weaving income.

Commonly called Tongan or Plateau baskets, these baskets are referred to by a variety of names, and each region has its own name and style of basket.  The traditional Tonga basket has a square woven base and a wide round rim at the top. The bottom strips or twigs extend radially into the walls of the basket.  Palm leaf strips are then woven into it with a continuous twined coil foundation wrapped with the palm leaves. The pale strips may be dyed darker colors to allow for woven patterning. Patterns are also made by variations in weaving, by leaving the dark radials exposed or by covering them. The basket is completed by a round rim.

Traditionally these baskets were used to keep foodstuff or for winnowing purposes. You can use these baskets just for decoration, or as a decorative way to store and display food, toys, magazines -- just about anything.  They look great on a wall!

They are made in a variety of designs and sizes. No two are alike and those pictured are examples only. To receive a basket of specific size (let us choose a nice design for you!).

Plateau baskets vary in size slightly, however we normally stock ones in approx. 10", 13", 18", 21", 24", 26" and GIANT 33" sizes. Master Weaver baskets also available in 24" sizes (inquire).

Visit our gallery for best selection.  Baskets shown below are SAMPLES only - and most are sold.



Zanzibar Tribal Art

1731 L Street   Sacramento CA 95814

(916) 443-2057