Browsing on Pinterest the other day I was stuck by how much woven basketry has made a comeback. With a renewed interest in traditional skills and hand-crafted products African basket and grass weaving is part of this trend. At KUDU we stock many items that have been made using a variety of grass weaving techniques; placemats and baskets from Swaziland, Xhosa woven vessels and Zulu telephone wire bowls.
Green Zulu Wire Bowl – Available on : https://kuduhome.com/product/collections/wire-bowl/
Let’s look just at Zulu telephone wire bowls and accessories, which are now iconic South African objects and recognised internationally. How did they come about and why are they made with wire? There are a couple of different stories about how this style evolved. One is that in the mid-Twentieth century Zulu security guards on night shift used discarded fragments of telephone wire to weave around their batons or walking sticks to while away the time. Weavers- usually female- quickly incorporated this new wire material into weaving imbenge- the small lids used for covering clay beer pots, which are very significant to and visible in Zulu culture.
Image credit: http://www.rhodesigns.com/African/zu_imb_pix.html
Previously unavailable, this plastic coated copper wire from telephone poles became available due to increasing urbanisation. These days copper wire is not used due to the increased cost of copper and the coloured wire is obtained directly from a manufacturer. This gives a higher quality of product; the wire is not being re-used and re-shaped and we can rest assured that the wire is legally obtained.
This TED talk given by the inspirational Marisa Fick-Jordaan explains the history and evolution of Zulu telephone wire basket weaving into a contemporary art form :
Usually with basket weaving you start on the inside and work up and out. Not so with Zulu wire baskets; they are woven from the outside inwards.
To see the skill involved in weaving these bowls here is another clip :
I have several of these wire bowls on the wall in my home and I never tire of marvelling over the intricate detailing, the bold use of colour and the knowing the history and context behind these beautiful objects helps me to appreciate just how many elements have been brought together in their creation.
Yours, bringing Africa home,