Zululand, South Africa
Zulu Wire Baskets
The Zulu are the
group in South
Africa and many of
us have heard of
Shaka, who united
the fractious tribes
and created the Zulu
nation in the early
The Zulu people have
long been associated
with their skill and
artistry in fashioning baskets from the native plants and
grasses of their homeland as well as for their intricate
and culturally important beadwork.
The original idea to use recycled telephone wire for
baskets reportedly came from security workers on the
graveyard shift in South African factories. To while away
the hours, they would often wind and weave brightlycolored
bits of telephone wire around their nightsticks.
Weaving of these baskets from the top down and over a
form makes them even more unusual. Most baskets are
woven from the bottom up. These inventive weavers
start with a thick wire at the top rim of the basket and
then work their way down, pulling each wire taut against
a form to create the basketís shape.
The group we work with has invented several new
stitches that they weave with and are constantly evolving
their styles. These unique baskets are especially
functional and can be washed in warm, soapy water.
Fair Trade Practices
Around 800 full time
weavers and their families
are supported with a fair
living wage from their
amazing creations. Since
wire baskets are woven
by many men due to the
difficult nature of
weaving wire, they are
able to stay home on
their tribal lands
instead of moving to
cities to look for work.
In the rural groups we
work with, the family units
are preserved so that the weavers and
their families can live more traditional
About the Wire
Recycled wire is rarely used
anymore because of it's scarcity and
the fact that using recycled wire
produces a basket of lesser quality.
Due to the very high price of
copper, which is used in telephone
wire, weavers are now using an
annealed steel core wire that looks
just like telephone wire.
The wire we use is custom
manufactured in special colors for
the weavers using some recycled and
all lead-free materials. The wire is
manufactured in South Africa.