Weaving Baskets in Namibia

Makalani Baskets

In the far north of Namibia, in the Caprivi Strip area of the Okavango Delta, the Kavango and Ovambo people produce these traditional woven baskets. Plant materials are plentiful in this area, which is the largest inland delta on earth and a true oasis in the Kalihari Desert.

Weavers harvest the local Makalani palm leaves and create vegetable-based dyes from flower petals and roots, using age-old recipes handed down from their ancestors.

Getting the natural dye to soak into the waxy palm leaves is very tricky and some weaving material may be left soaking in a dye bath for more than a week at a time. The dyed palm leaves are wrapped around grass, which forms the interior of the coils.

Coil weaving is the most difficult type of basket weaving. Controlling the thickness and evenness of the coils takes years of practice.

As a bowl get larger, it takes exponentially more time to expand in diameter. The coils on each row become much longer as the bowl flares upwards and outwards. Adding an inch in diameter at the top of a basket could actually take as long or longer than the first several inches as the base of the basket. 

Weave quality, basket size, difficulty of producing dye colors, and complexity of pattern all combine to determine the prices on these one-of-a-kind creations.

Two baskets the same size but with different weave qualities may be priced differently according to the quality of the weaving – which translates directly to the amount of time taken to weave.

A portion of the proceeds from each basket sold goes to a fund which provides educational opportunities for the girls of Namibia.

Thank you for supporting Fair Trade income for these weavers!


About Namibia

The Republic of Namibia is a country in Southern Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean; it shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek.

The driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia has been inhabited since early times by the San, Damara and Nama people. Around the 14th century, immigrating Bantu peoples arrived as part of the Bantu expansion. Since then, the Bantu groups, the largest being the Ovambo, have dominated the population of the country; since the late 19th century, they have constituted a majority.

Namibia has a population of 2.6 million people and a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, tourism and the mining industry – including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver and base metals – form the basis of its economy, while the manufacturing sector is comparatively small. The large, arid Namib Desert from which the country derived its name has resulted in Namibia being overall one of the least densely populated countries in the world.

Source: Wikipedia

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All of our African baskets are verified Fair Trade, because we believe that indigenous people around the world should be compensated fairly for their amazing work.

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Namibia baskets

Approximately 11.5 Inches Wide x 5.25 Inches Tall $125.00

SKU: 66608

Makalani Bowl

Approximately 11.75 Inches Wide x 4.25 Inches Deep $143.00
Approximately 11.75 Inches Wide x 4.75 Inches Tall $143.00