Anyone who has spoken to me over the last 6 months has definitely heard me say the words: baskets from Botswana. There is no escape. These baskets have come up pretty much every day since I met Peter Mabeo. I even caught myself at the airport the other day, in line at my gate, explaining to a couple how these baskets were exactly what we wanted to support and sell on this site. As you can tell there's a lot of love happening right here: I love baskets, I love the magic and passion of Peter and I love Africa so it's all so exciting that I'm having a hard time typing...
I met Peter a year ago and since then we have been discussing all the things we could do together: editorial, video, baskets, ceramics, furniture and journeys throughout South Africa to meet craftsmen. Expect to see more on the site from Mabeo and all the thrilling adventures Peter will take us on.
We're starting our collaboration with a series of baskets. Today I finally received images of the first samples that I can't help sharing with you, along with a few questions I asked Peter.
AM: Can you tell us a bit about the women behind these beautiful baskets?
PM: The baskets are woven by the women of the Etsha villages. The women of Etsha are descendants the Hambukushu refugees from southern Angola, who were fleeing brutal attacks from the Portugese during Angola‘s war of independence in the 1960’s. They fled to Botswana and brought their basket weaving skills where they were settled as refugees and later granted citizenship.
AM: How they are made?
PM: The baskets are woven using palm leaves of a tree called Mokola. The Hambukushu women picked up dying techniques to incorporate to their weaving skills from Botswana culture. This is done using roots and bark from indigenous trees. Both the palm leaves and the dyes are harvested sustainably without killing the trees. Each basket is skillfully woven in a process that can only be described as a labor of love, taking an average of one month to complete.
I am in awe of the weavers for their talent, patience and humility towards their craft. While it is important to tell their tragic history, it is their work and skill that make me especially proud to have an opportunity of finding ways of presenting their work in a way that is deserving, to people who appreciate beauty, art, dedication, design and craftsmanship, as a universal example of the beautiful human spirit and about how tragedy can be transformed into beauty!
AM: It’s such a beautiful collaboration. What can you tell our readers about the baskets we’ll be offering in our Shop?
PM: While each weaver, or group of weavers, has their own preferred patterns with names like Zebras Forehead, Elephant Trunk, Shield, etc., the baskets that will comprise your first order were designed in collaboration with Patty Johnson, a Canadian designer who I asked for help with presenting some baskets in 2006. Presenting them in way that did not change the existing traditional language, but served only to select, translate, and in some way simplify, so as to make the baskets applicable to different environments. The aim of this was to create a broad, yet thoughtful avenue for acceptance.
I so look forward to us working together and sharing the beautiful work and story of the women of the Etsha villages!
Ambra is a passionate, seasoned curator, who facilitates great design through innovative collaborations between designers, artists, brands, and institutions. Among many other things.
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