The Weavers – In The Western province of Zambia lies Mongo, not far from the border with Angola. This is where the mostly Mbunda Speaking people weave these ruggedly unique baskets. Due to how strong and stiff they are, people often comment that they seem to be made of wood.
The Mbunda people arrived from Angola to this native Lozi tribal area in the late 1700’s. As this region is part of the Zambezi river flood plain, it is incredibly isolated and known to be amongst the poorest regions in Zambia. Basket weaving provides the only opportunity for these rural women to earn income to support their children and extended families.
About Makenge – Makings are large bushes that grow throughout the Mongo region anywhere near water. They send out long, shallow roots that the weavers can dig up easily from the sandy soil.
They cut off the last two thirds of the root and at each place they cut, the bush regenerates two new ones. The roots can grow up to three feet a month, so it doesn’t harm the bushes and makes for a long term sustainable source of weaving materials.
After the roots are cut, they are ‘peeled’ and the interior is used inside the basket coils while the outer part is split into fibres that can be wrapped around the coils. Depending on when the roots are harvested in relation to the rainy season, the baskets can have more, or less, of a shine to them.
The Weaving Process – The First day is spent digging roots, while the next three days are used to ‘peel’ and prepare the fibres. Another day is used to do the dying. All of the colours are made from roots or leaves boiled along with Makenge fibres. The fibres are then wet as the women spend several more days weaving each basket.
Iapprox. 46cm x 7cn