Being Creative with few resources- Basket Weaving, Arts & Crafts in South Africa

Dear AnnTheGran readers, thank you so much for your comments and your excitment regarding South Africa. I so enjoy sharing this information with you and giving you a small taste and experience of African art and culture.

I am always amazed how creative people can be with so little! Creativity does not necessitate vast sums of money.This is so evident in South Africa where so many art related objects are made from the earth as well as recycled from the environment.  Most people involved in the creation of functional art have had no formal art training and many have had little or no formal education.  Many times art practises are past down from one generation to the next. In rural areas in South Africa today, people create art out of indigenous materials, such as clay, wood grass and make richly decorated items for household purposes such as serving spoons, silver ware, bowls, etc , beading of these items is very common and is a craft practiced by many in southern Africa. Some rural communities even create art out of recycled items such as coca-cola tins, murals, traditionally the men do most of the wood carving and the women the beading.

Woman make most of the items that are sold commercially and do this while raising their children at home in the rural communities while husbands work in the cities.  Many of these women are now being encouraged by development agencies to produce work for outside markets to be sold to the rest of the world- an example of this is the Ndebele dolls.  African Folklore Embroidery sells many of these hand made products on their website. The custom of carving artifacts associated with rituals is common throughout Africa, Drums and other musical instruments are commonly made by men, however in ceremonies such as weddings they are played by the women.

Doll making is one of the most ancient arts practiced by African Communities. The Ndebele tribe are the most well known for this art form. The Zulu women also produce beautiful dolls.  Most of the fertility dolls are covered in beads, but the core remains invisible. The core may be made out of maize cobs, clay or even recycled tins and jars.  The Tsonga dolls are dressed in layered cloth skirts similar to those worn by the Tsonga women.

I am particualr fascinated by the intricacy involved in basket weaving (many compare basket weaving to quilting) and the use of baskets and hand made pots as a functional part of every day life. For example large pots are generally used for brewing beer; people drink the beer from smaller bowls while the mail bowl is passed from person to person.

Rural women, in South Africa, generally carry pots and other containers on their heads. Many learned this art of balancing large items on their heads at a very young age from their mothers.

Many African women make beautiful baskets out of grass. They first pick the grass and then color the grass using different berries for dying.  Traditionally these were used to store grain and other items, these days they are produced to be sold. Grass is also used to make various objects related to initiation rites such as grass woven masks.  In this design featued in this blog, you will see how people have interpreted the basket design.  From using colorful threads to more muted colors.

What I love about African Folklore Embroidery is that it is so transportable , you do not need a machine and it is truly a great take-along project. since the kits come with a needle and African threads, one can get started immediately, the chain stitch the dominant stitch and kits include basic instructions. However what appeals to me the most is being able to incorporate every object and piece from ones life into the design, for example an old necklace one does not want to throw away, a piece of fabric, pine needles, beads and other items. This makes African Folklore Embroidery as a much a fiber art as  a form of recycable art.  Combing traditional art practises  with new art forms takes African Folklore Embroidery to a whole new level.

Comments (3) -

These are so beautiful.  I agree that people can be so innovative regardless of the supplies that are available.  

The fine workmanship is a joy to behold.


I loved these pictures.  I have a new email friend in South Africa and I know she would love these pictures.  thank you for these   mary

thank you, Ann, for all the free designs you have given me..  I really appreciate your web site,  mary

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