Weaving Nubian Baskets

The Nubian diaspora: Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya

Nubian people originally lived in Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt. They alternated trading and fighting with ancient Egyptians as long as 6,000 years ago. The Nubians were the trading link between ancient Egyptians and all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Darfur, Sudan,  has been the center of a humanitarian crisis since 2003 when the government of Sudan waged war against the non-Arab indigenous populations, some of which were Nubian.

The refugees of this crisis have formed women’s weaving groups, and baskets have been collected from the refugee camps in Darfur. 

Nubian people are also found in countries neighboring Sudan, as, over the centuries, Nubian people have been displaced from Sudan and Egypt. World War II, the building of the Aswan Dam, an influx of Arab peoples and the current conflict in Darfur, caused them to flee South as refugees and settle in Uganda, Kenya and other countries.

They work hard to preserve their native culture through traditional activities such as basket weaving, so we also collect baskets from Nubian weavers in Kenya and Uganda.

Nubian baskets

Weavers create these baskets by wrapping palm leaf fibers around a coil of papyrus, then stitching the coils together.

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. Time taken to weave a larger art basket is often measured in months or even years.

Some Nubian baskets also use wild grasses. Tabagas are flat discs, used by the Nubian people as food trays. Kutas are dome shaped lids that are culturally required when bringing food from a kitchen; they also keep the food protected from insects and dust. Other baskets are bowl shaped and some also have tabagas as lids.


About the Nubian people

Nubians are an ethno-linguistic group of people who are indigenous to the region which is now present-day Northern Sudan and southern Egypt. They originate from the early inhabitants of the central Nile valley, believed to be one of the earliest cradles of civilization.

The descendants of the ancient Nubians still inhabit the general area of what was ancient Nubia. Some resettled Nubians continue working as farmers (sharecroppers) on resettlement farms whose landowners live elsewhere; most work in Egyptian and Sudanese cities.

Today, Nubians practice Islam. To a certain degree, Nubian religious practices involve a syncretism of Islam and traditional folk beliefs. In ancient times, Nubians practiced a mixture of traditional religion and Egyptian religion. Prior to the spread of Islam, many Nubians practiced Christianity.

Whereas Arabic was once only learned by Nubian men who travelled for work, it is increasingly being learned by Nubian women who have access to school, radio and television. Nubian women are working outside the home in increasing numbers.

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.

Learn more about Fair Trade

Nubian baskets

Largest in Set: Approximately 13 Inches Wide x 7.75 Inches Tall $255.00
Approximately 6 Inches Wide x 2.5 Inches Tall $64.00
Approximately 16.75 Inches Wide x 12 Inches Tall $285.00