It was my pleasure to interview Cael of Baskets Of Africa regarding the Beautiful Baskets they sell on their website:
Lons_Designs: When I look at the intricate design and polished elegance of these baskets, I’m blown away. These baskets will add great pops of color and visual interest to any interior. Have you ever spoken to any of the makers about their inspiration for the designs, colors, etc.
Cael of Baskets of Africa: “Designs, colors, patterns, shapes, sizes are generally all rooted in tradition which goes back to traditional use for a basket. For example, the Tonga basket is a winnowing basket for winnowing grain, thus it’s shallow bowl shape. This is what they use to winnow grain in the villages of Zambia today. However, for export they try to do fancier, although still traditional designs. Depending on the type of weaving, different patterns are possible, all three baskets you chose are totally different types of weaving so different patterns are possible or impossible as is dictated by the manner in which they are woven. Colors on the top 2 baskets are all natural, vegetable dyes. So they use what they can find and generally using “teas” that previous generations teach them how to make. The Zulu wire basket is made of a wire like telephone wire, but we make it in Durban, South Africa so it is lead free and we can control the colors available to the weavers. Those are the least traditional weaving, but this type of weaving was invented by Zulu men about 40 years ago.”
Lons_Designs: I’m looking at the Namibian Makalani bowl and the Zulu “Black and White” they look so polished as though they were manufactured in a factory. Are all the baskets hand made and if so, how long does it take to make them.
Cael of Baskets of Africa: “All baskets are made in the weavers homes/huts. No special tools, no factories. Weavers weave what they want, when they want. Most of the weavers are subsistence farmers and can only weave when they are not working in the fields. This sometimes means weaving under a tree when it’s too hot in the fields to work, and weaving at night by candlelight or next to a cooking fire. Also, there are times of the year after planting but before harvesting or after harvesting but before the next planting that they can dedicate to nearly full time weaving. Basket collection in the bush is coordinated with these seasons and other seasons such as the funeral season in some countries or the hunger season in other countries. Time to weave is impossible to tell. Every basket and weaver make a unique combination and creation. But generally, some baskets can be woven in as little as a couple hours (small simple baskets of easiest weaving styles) and others can take over a year for one basket (I don’t have any posted on the website now, but I have one here that took 15 months to weave). I attached a picture of one of the 15 month basket so you can see what that looks like. ”
Lons_Designs: That basket is AMAZING! I can’t thank you enough for stopping by. There is another point that I’d like you to share about your website that is VERY important for our readers to know. Your website lists that you are a member of the Fair Trade Association. Please talk about what that means and how consumers can be sure that a fair portion of their purchase is going to the people who make these beautiful baskets.
Cael of Baskets of Africa: “Yes, I am an 8 year member of the Fair Trade Federation and I’m dedicated to supporting weavers in Africa. The best thing for consumers to do is pick up a phone or drop an email to a shop before buying to make sure they feel good about the person supplying them. Fair Trade is not a hard and fast thing. Different people interpret it vastly different ways (unfortunately) so the amount that the producers benefit can vary wildly from supplier to supplier. I’ve been working in Africa 21 years and my life is dedicated to supporting the people there through this Baskets of Africa project. I work as directly with the weavers as is possible. In many cases I’m working with the head of a weaving group, or in some cases I have to use a collector to buy for me. Since I’m only one person, I have a vast network of contacts and resources across Africa to help me collect enough baskets to support thousands of weavers and their families, in part or in whole. I pay higher than Fair Trade prices to the weavers, and in return they generally give me their best baskets. I have long term relationships with the weavers to that they can plan on the income and use the money to send their kids to school, finance clean water projects, larger houses/huts, medical needs, or buy animals for their farms. Whatever they choose to do with their income, the key here is that they choose how to spend the money. I don’t pay them low rates and then decide to invest in one project or another with the profits. I give the profits to the weavers directly in the form of paying them higher prices and give them control directly of their financial futures. This is very, very different from the way most Fair Trade importers work.”
Visit http://basketsofafrica.com/ to purchase these baskets and for more information. Please comment and share your thoughts on these beautiful basket and the information that Cael shared with us.