Our Kenten (pronounced ken-ˈtān) bike basket is woven from wild date palm. The artisan harvests these palm fronds, pulling apart the stringy threads, braiding them into ropes that are then dried in the sun. The stem of the woody palm is used as ribbing and runs vertical in the weaving process. The artisan weaves the braided fronds through the ribbed structure to secure the basket shape and form. The opening of the bike basket is then secured with a metal ring and wrapped with colorful African textile using more frond. The final product is exquisitely constructed and sturdy.
“Man on a mission”
How do you weave 25 baskets in a single day? Joseph knows. “We got the community together and told them of your desire to help us. Then we each wove our best basket so you will come back and order more. The community has a need and we are eager to work.”
~ Joseph, Master Basket Weaver, Northern Ghana
Joseph ended his schooling after high school so that his younger sisters could afford an education through his work as a basket weaver. When we placed our first order, he got his community of men, women, and teenagers to work together to weave baskets, fulfilling his vision of a community prospering with dignity and economic independence. We are currently working with a community of twenty five members, but Joseph hopes our partnership will provide income to the community and nearby villages – with a goal of reaching two hundred community members.
We were not going to sell baskets until we met Joseph. Joseph is a basket weaver… sort of, whose story inspired us. Basket weaving is a family tradition and he has been weaving baskets since he was 12 years old. He completed secondary school (the equivalent of High school in the US), but with an ailing and aging father, he had to put his educational aspirations on hold as his family could no longer financially support his and his two younger sisters’ education. He said, “I stopped school to weave baskets so my younger sisters could at least get a high school education, for a woman without education will not attract an educated man, which might lead to uneducated children.”
He took us to his home and showed us his family and his beautiful sisters who were all weaving baskets. “I don’t think I am a businessman,” he told us. He only wants to help his community gain economic independence, aspire to such things as getting an education and live with dignity. He commented, thinking aloud, “Maybe one day I can have my own store.” It sounded more like a prayer let out to God. I was curious to know how he would handle a big order and he answered with, “You see all those huts? We all have been weaving baskets since we were kids, God brought you to us, we will do it.”
Once back in the US, I called Joseph to order 25 baskets as a test before we had any orders just to see how all of this was going to work out. He called me the next day with excitement and breathlessly shouted down the poor reception phone line, “It is done!” Perturbed, I asked him how he could have woven 25 baskets in a day; how is the quality, are they all going to be same colors…? Patiently, he explained to me how he couldn’t possibly weave 25 baskets in a day even if he skipped sleep and he added, “What you asked for needs more work.” Rather, he got his community together and told them to each weave their best basket, because if the baskets turned out well then I would come back and order more. And if I ordered more, then the whole community would gain economically. He also informed me that the community working together reduces envy, promotes goodwill and creates varied and high quality baskets. “The whole community could use your help,” he said, and he sent me a picture he had taken to show me my new extended family.
Joseph always leaves you something to think about after every conversation and we will continue to share his story and his community with you.
Check out his amazing creations here.
History of Baskets
Evidence tells us that humans have been making and using baskets for as long as we can trace, making basket weaving one of the oldest art forms known. These ancient baskets were used for a variety of reasons, based primarily on the geographical needs of the weavers; those who lived near water created baskets to help with fishing needs, while people living inland wove baskets that aided them with harvesting, carrying, and storing grains.
The variety of weaves and materials used worldwide make for thousands of different types and styles of baskets; it has been said that baskets are a reflection of the diverseness found in the population today. Each individual weaver creates their own masterpieces with varying weaves, materials, colors, and patterns. The purpose for which the basket was woven also factors into the intricate designs; some are woven tight enough to hold water, while others are made with a more open weave.
Traditional basket weavers use materials they have at hand to create the baskets needed sustain their lives. The materials historically consist of natural fibers which can be found in the native environment. Examples of typical fibers include many varieties of grasses, vines, trees, and roots. Essentially, any material flexible and strong enough to withstand weaving can be used. Baskets vary not only across geographies and cultures, but also within the regions in which they are created, based on the creator and the materials available in the immediate area.
When the trading and selling of goods between distant lands became common, items to be traded or sold were stored in baskets to accommodate the many forms of transportation. Because these baskets traveled across seas and continents, weaving styles and designs were ultimately distributed throughout the world and shared across cultures; some were adopted for practical use, others coveted for their craftsmanship and attractiveness.
Just the same as ages past, baskets today are used for functional purposes and are also appreciated as forms of art. Many are collected and displayed simply for their beauty. True basket weaving is still done by hand, so it remains an art form: handmade and quite personal, carrying the artistic signature of the person who made it.
Whether you have baskets in your home to store and organize, or for the uniqueness and beauty, please enjoy them. Someone, somewhere has put much effort and artistic touch into your hand-made basket, and it is indeed, special and one of a kind.