In the early 1960’s, the fertile lands of the baTonga people were permanently buried in water during construction of one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, Lake Kariba, and the people who lived there were forced to relocate to the Binga district.
Many baTonga women utilize traditional weaving techniques to create intricately patterned baskets. All natural and locally harvested materials – such as wild grasses, small vines, and palm leaves dyed with tree bark – make up the baskets. The largest sized bowls are still used by the baTonga people for their original purpose of winnowing grains.
Binga baskets are woven using the over and under style of ‘simple’ weaving in a circular pattern. A 16 inch diameter basket can take around 3 days to complete. The baskets are finished using a coiled rim with a distinctive herringbone pattern.
Masterweave Binga Baskets
The Nambian weavers live a half day’s journey from Binga. These baskets are done in the same style, techniques, and using the same materials as Binga baskets. However, the quality is substantially higher than standard Binga baskets because these weavers use very thin pieces of palm to create the baskets with incredible patterns. Another hallmark of these baskets is that they are often finished with a very intricate grid patterned rim.
To the East of Binga, weavers in Gokwe use a different technique to create these baskets. First they weave a flat rectangular mat using a straight over and under weave. They then cut a circle and attach a rim. They use an array of vegetable and especially earthen dyes to create more colors than normally seen in Binga baskets.
In Southern Zimbabwe a completely different technique of making lightweight string from sisal and then coil weaving baskets exists in the Chivi district. They use thick, heavy coils and primarily natural earthen dyes to weave these study baskets from local grasses and sisal.
It is a two day bus trip from Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare out to the Binga area – with much of the second day being on dirt roads. The weavers depend on basket income to sustain themselves beyond what food they grow as subsistence farmers. They often use the money earned to pay school fees for their children.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. A country of roughly 14 million people, Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, with English, Shona, and Ndebele the most common.
Since the 11th century, present-day Zimbabwe has been the site of several organized states and kingdoms such as the Rozvi and Mthwakazi kingdoms, as well as being a major route for migration and trade. The British South Africa Company invaded and subdued the country in the late 19th century, leading to the establishment of Southern Rhodesia as a British colony. In 1965, the conservative white minority government unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia. The state endured international isolation and a 15-year guerrilla war with black nationalist forces, which ended with in a peace agreement that established universal enfranchisement and de jure sovereignty as Zimbabwe in 1980.
Under Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian regime (1980-2017), the state security apparatus dominated the country and was responsible for widespread human rights violations. The country has been in economic decline since the 1990s, experiencing several crashes and hyperinflation along the way.
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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.