P1060726 - kopie - kopie

Into the bush...

During the wet season, Numba ploughs and sows the land surrounding her homestead, but as soon as the pale blue skies mark the return of the long dry season, basketry becomes a crucial source of income.

First, she covers many kilometres through deep sand in the African bush in search for young Mokola palm leaves and the right dyes for their baskets, which are extracted from roots, leaves and tree bark. For safety, she is joined by others, as  elephants are sometimes encountered along the way, which also feed on the young shoots. 


Arts for Africa

Dyes are pounded...

Certain dye trees are scarce in the immediate surroundings of her homestead, and she may need to travel long distances for a particular dye color. When Numba returns to her village, she pounds the pieces of root and bark into a fine powder using a traditional wooden mortar and pestle.

A popular and colorfast dark brown dye source are the roots of gwarri, known as mushitondo in Hambukushu. Another much used red brown dye is the  bark of the birdplum, known as mukerete.



Leaves are dyed...

She boils the Mokola palm leaves on an open fire and adds the pounded bark in order to dye the leaves. The baskets she weaves often contain two or three colours so she will have to repeat the process for each dye. 

When the leaves are dyed with the intended colours , she divides the palm strands with a long weaving needle that has a wooden handle. The strands are then divided into even thinner fibrous strands. Only then is she ready to start weaving her basket…


Arts for Africa

and transformed into masterpieces...

Using a long needle with a wooden handle, her skilled hands weave coil upon coil of coloured palm strands, integrating traditional patterns into her basket. 

Weaving is a slow, painstaking process, requiring patience, dexterity and precision. Larger baskets may take up to 5 months or more to complete. As she lives in an isolated village, selling her basket before the termites get to it presents the next challenge…


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