In Rwanda, “the land of a thousand hills”, weavers from many tribes, including the recently warring Hutus and Tutsis, create sisal bowl baskets as symbols of peace, reconciliation, self- reliance and hope.
Purchase of these baskets helps Rwandan women to feed and educate their children and gain access to healthcare, promoting sustainable peace throughout this war-torn region.
Natural materials for these baskets have been hand gathered or cultivated by the weavers. The inside of the coils consists of native grasses. Sisal fiber is then finely stitched on the outside of the coil. The Sisal plant, a species of Agave and close relative of the Yucca plant of the American Southwest, grows wild throughout Rwanda. Up to 1,000 fibers are stripped out of the sword-shaped leaves by pushing the leaf between a metal can and piece of wood to remove the pulp. The fine fibers that remain are then spun into long threads, and hand-woven using traditional patterns interpreted in modern colors.
Coil weaving is the most difficult type of basket weaving. Sisal fibers are wrapped and stitched over a coil of grass. 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.
Each basket has a loop on the back, making it easy to hang on a wall-create your own wall art by selecting a collection to display in any space. As with fine art, keep these baskets dry and out of direct UV light.
Agaseke Peace Baskets
These are a type of lidded basket, hand-woven using natural native grasses, reeds, and sisal fibers. Baskets are such a powerful symbol of Rwanda’s fresh start that an Agaseke Peace Basket is included at the center of the country’s coat of arms, and is also featured on Rwanda’s 5,000 Franc banknote. Rural weavers in Rwanda of all tribes, including Hutus and Tutsis, work side by side to produce these unique baskets.
Rwanda is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley, where the African Great Lakes region and East Africa converge. One of the smallest countries on the African mainland, its capital city is Kigali.
It is highly elevated, giving it the soubriquet “land of thousand hills”, with its geography dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year. Rwanda has a population of over 12.6 million living on 26,338 km2 (10,169 mi2) of land, and is the most densely populated mainland African country.
The population is young and predominantly rural. Rwandans are drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda. However, within this group there are three subgroups: the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. The Twa are a forest-dwelling pygmy people and are often considered descendants of Rwanda’s earliest inhabitants. Scholars disagree on the origins of and differences between the Hutu and Tutsi; some believe differences are derived from former social castes within a single people, while others believe the Hutu and Tutsi arrived in the country separately, and from different locations.
Shop with a conscience. Choose Fair Trade goods.
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.