Binga Baskets…..

One of the most exciting things to unpack from our container this year was the collection of Binga Baskets which we bought from Binga Craft Community  who were showing their wares at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) which was on whilst we were back in Harare in April this year.  This is an inspiring and uplifting week celebrating African and international music, dance and theatre and is the largest music festival of its kind in southern Africa.

It was here in the crafts village that we met up with Matabbeki Mudenda who works with the Binga Craft Centre and was show casing the Binga basketry along with some of the women weavers.  This is where we purchased our beautiful baskets, having come eight hours from Binga on top of a bus.

The Tonga Tribe of people have not had it easy.  They were reluctantly relocated from the Zambezi Basin back in the 1960’s to the Binga area which is one of Zimbabwe’s most harsh and arid areas in the north of the country, to make way for the damming of the mighty Zambezi River which flooded the land where they had lived and fished for centuries. 

Lake Kariba was built to generate hydro-electric power for Zambia and Zimbabwe, and yet half a century later the Tonga people still do not have power or running water. However, the people here have a remarkable talent for basket weaving which has been handed down through the generations.  

The baskets require great skill in making and are mainly woven by the women using natural fibres from the Ilala palm leaves which are grown in the region and are also being planted by the women to sustain their demand.  The tree only generates from seed that has passed through an elephant’s digestive system so collecting them would be interesting.   Originally the baskets were used for winnowing grains and sorghum, but now much of the demand is from tourist centres such as Victoria Falls and South Africa with groups supporting and marketing the Binga Craft Centre to other parts of the world.

This wonderful image by international interior designer  Stephen Falcke shows how the baskets are used effectively in a contemporary interior setting, (although I could not find any credit given to the Binga Basket women on his website and this image opens his web page!)

In our own Birdwoods Gallery this weekend Julia Whyte and I  styled the centre table with the new arrivals and these are some of her images…

Do note the very beautiful collectable antique Kuba cloth  on the table which we recently purchased from Phillip Cook of Trout & Heather in the small rural town of Waipawa, which happens to be where the gallery building also comes from.  This shop is well worth a visit, a very extraordinary little shop on the main street that has trout fishing memorabilia, rare textiles, artifacts, antiques and books amongst other treasures.  Heather makes wonderful pole lathed spoons from wood, these too are in the shop.

All these baskets are for sale ranging in price from $49 to $449 – if you live near, do come in and see them, they are very special indeed.

The striking wooden bull and orxy heads come from the very stylish shop Kiki’s which is in a wonderful old colonial homestead in the Umwinsidale Hills just outside of Harare.  If you are in Harare – this is a must visit shopping experience.  It is owned by my gorgeous and talented friend Esther Ilsink who used to be neighbours of ours in our previous farming lives.

As always, at any hint of a camera Archie is keen to pose.  Our Archie is a complete natural!  Although he was unsure of sharing it with Invictus, the Zimbabwean springstone carving by Jaisi Muhomba.

Black Dog just relished the opportunity to jump on the chair, something she knows she is not allowed to do!

Talking of festivals, we have a busy week ahead, with four days at the Pukeora Festival in Central Hawke’s Bay selling sweets from the Birdwoods Sweet Shop.  This is a wonderful four days of art, craft and music and is well worth a day out as there is something for everyone and the view is spectacular.

Until next week, thank you for your reading time.

Louise and all at Birdwoods x

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