Have you ever tried weaving a basket? It is a long, tedious, and brain numbing process. That said, the end result is (usually) a beautiful piece that you can keep with you for years. Since most of us do not have days on end to dedicate to basket weaving, it is much easier to simply buy them from Grassroots Uganda as we have just completed putting Lwazi Women’s Group through a basket training workshop!
We have actually been making and selling baskets for years. The colorful ones are made from buso (raffia) fibers wrapped around reeds. The buso is stripped from the outer casing of the fat part of a palm leaf, then dried in the sun for several days. It is then dyed in bright colors or left natural. As the woman is weaving the basket, she actually weaves the design into the basket as she makes it, which is A LOT of starting, stopping, changing colors, etc. Now if I tried doing this it would likely look like a drunken rainbow vomited. However, our ladies have design weaving down to a science!
The banana fiber baskets are actually even more difficult to make as the banana fibers are softer than the buso, making wrapping the basket rings and keeping the basket tight and solid more difficult. Banana fibers are stripped from the outer casing of specific banana trees. They are dried, then cut into thin strips which are used for the weaving. A piece of bent wire acts as a chunky needle to pull the fibers through, and knots and tied are expertly hidden behind other layers of fibers. The banana fibers are naturally a variegated brown, and the colors of the fibers result in the colors of the basket.
For our basket training workshop, we brought in Rose Kulabako from St Isaac’s women’s group to do a seven day training with 23 ladies of Lwazi Women’s Group in Mbale. The workshop was fun and a complete success. For everyone except the chickens, who often ended up being lunch.