Housekeeping Blog

Bolga Baskets

I'm very excited by the arrival of our beautiful Bolga baskets, so called as they are skillfully handmade in Bolgatanga, the craft center of Northern Ghana.  These genuine Bolga baskets have been handmade using traditional basket weaving skills that have been passed down through the generations.  The result is these beautiful, sculptural baskets where every one is unique, they are great for storage, picnics or shopping.

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The main reason for basket weaving in this region is due to the poor fertility of the soil around Bolgatanga, making it unsuitable for extensive agricultural activities.  The region also suffers from erratic rainfall patterns and harsh weather conditions, meaning they can only grow enough to sustain their families, leaving nothing to take to market.  So mainly the women have supplemented their household income with handicraft activities such as basket weaving, leather work and pottery.

Bolga baskets are woven using Veta vera straw, known locally as kinkahe (elephant grass) which is collected from the tops of the grass stalk, then each piece is split in half vertically. Each half of the split straw is then twisted tightly by rolling it to give it strength.  The straw is put in bunches and dyed in boiling water. For bright colours the straw is dyed yellow first, then the colour.  The weaver carefully selects appropriate straw for the base, sides and handle. The selection of the proper grass for various parts of the basket is critical to good weaving.  Weaving starts at the base and works up to the rim. The rims are wrapped with straw to form a tube like edge.  The handles are made with a sturdy wrapping technique around a grass core.  Remaining bits of straw that are sticking out of the basket are carefully trimmed off. Leather handles are skillfully applied by local leather workers.  A medium basket takes about 3 days. Some shapes and patterns are more difficult to weave and take longer.
 

The original Bolga basket was woven round, without any form of handle. The ends of the straw were left untrimmed. It was used basically as a sieve in the brewing of a local alcoholic beverage called pito. Pito was and still is an important drink during such occasions as funerals, marriage ceremonies, festivals, naming ceremonies and other important social gatherings.

Our Bolga baskets are made by the ladies of the Maata-N-Tudu Association in northern Ghana. It was created to support the women of this region to improve the quality of their lives through education, loans and mutual self-help. Many of these women live on less than US$1 a day.  We have paid a much higher rate for their baskets than they are able to get in the local markets, so all baskets purchased directly help to improve their lives. 

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