Our Co-founder, Bee, described Uganda as the most beautiful country she's ever had the pleasure of travelling to. Here in a rural village she met with Ruth, the head of a group of incredibly creative weavers. Using a wrapping technique similar to that of neighbouring country, Rwanda, the baskets from our Ugandan group are like pieces of art. Topista is the lead talent within the co-operative and inspired by our crocodile rug came up with her own crocodile basket in response. House, cat and bird motifs are also common in rich earthy tones made from natural dyes. No two are woven the same, so only one of each is available.
Uganda is an incredibly beautiful country and a lot of tourism there is centred on Primate reserves. It is one of the best places to see Gorillas and Chimpanzees and tourism contributes greatly to the protection of these magnificent creatures. It also has some of the most talented and creative weavers we have ever had the pleasure of working with. On a trip in late 2019, Bee visited the town of Fort Portal where she met with Ruth who is now our main lady on the ground. Ruth took us around and with the help of a local taxi driver we ventured deep into the rural areas to meet some of the most talented weavers and fill the taxi boot with their baskets.
In Uganda Baskets are made out of traditional fibres, sourced locally. Baskets are made at home in between household chores, subsistence farming and looking after children. The income from weaving enables people to uplift their lives and goes towards paying for education and food. We have two types at the moment but both are ‘coiled baskets’. The thicker coiled baskets are made out of raffia wrapped and stitched around a coil of dried grass and banana leaf stems. The raffia is dyed and a sharp metal tool is used to aid the wrapping.
The thinner coiled baskets are made by a collective started in 2005 with 146 members by a very enterprising lady called Kellen who is still in charge of the collective. These baskets are also made by wrapping raffia around a central coil but in this case the coil is made out of millet straw, which forms a much more delicate coil. All the materials are sourced locally and the dyes are all natural colours derived from local vegetation.Weaving is a long process and it takes around 2 – 3 days to weave a 12-14” basket. This is on top of harvesting, preparing and dying the materials. Banana trees and raffia palms grow in abundance around villages and homesteads.
Traditionally baskets are used to hold food (lined with a cloth) or to carry and store household items. Many of the Ugandan homesteads I visited also had them hung on the wall as decoration.
Bee visited several different groups during her trip, each making baskets slightly differently from one other. The baskets and tassels that you see on our website are all ones that Bee bought directly from the groups she visited, as well as specific designs we are working with a few of the weavers with to produce. Ruth has been vital in helping us. She is very invested in helping her community and hopefully one day soon we will be able to see each other and have a huge hug and a catch up over a banana juice at her home.
Browse and buy our collection of Ugandan Baskets online here.