Provenance: From the Collection of Peter Nelson, who was a Peace Corps volunteer, collector, and dealer. These pieces were collected in the 1970s and very early 1980s. This piece is from his personal collection.
Additional Information: A beautiful Botswana open bowl shaped basket, deep with stunning intricate patterns!
This basket from Botswana is very similar to these from the Zulu of South Africa. As for the Zulu, the tradition of making basket is known in Botswana for a very long time and is still alive today and even more diversified in term of style, size, and decoration. The creativity of people from Botswana has reached its apex with these timeless baskets today overlooked as pieces worth collecting. Making baskets is an activity exclusively reserved to women, particularly the women from Bayei and Hambukushu ethnic groups. Theses stunning basket are made from palm tree fibers. This palm tree, called Mokola is found along the Okavango area. The technique and process of fabrication are very complex. It can take up to a month to produce a medium sized basket. Every basket is made by hand, using indigenous raw materials mainly fibers from the Mokola palm. Reeds or straws are used to ensure the strength of the basket. Then, the basket would hold its shape and it would be hard to be compressed.
The leaves of the Mokola palm are split with the fingers, soaked, and dried in the sun. Dyes are obtained using roots and barks of local trees, and some special leaves. These roots , barks or leaves would be finely chopped. Water would be added, and the grasses to be dyed would be boiled in this mixture and then dried in the sun. The designs are created to weaving strips of dyed palm fibers in places according to the patterns being created. Designs are taken basically from traditional repertoire. More recently innovative patterns have been added, making these baskets more and more desirable.The process of coiling depends from one artist to another. Usually it starts with a hole pierced into the woven row with an awl at the centre of the base. In this hole a strip of palm would be inserted and wrapped around the core. Coils would be added, overlapping the previous ones to created curved or vertical side.Strips are put together in a rigid bulb shaped container, rendered water-tight by the tightness of the weave/coils.
The art of making basket has became one of the most lucrative activities for women in Botswana as well as in Zimbabwe and South Africa. It has became the main source of income for many women. Thus more of these baskets are today produced for commercial purpose. Traditionally such baskets were made to fill some household needs. Lidded baskets were used as a storage for grains or as a beer basket to store local sorghum beer. Large open or bowl-shaped baskets served to carry foodstuffs on head and medium or small open bowl were used for winnowing grain or for serving food.
Bryan Sentance, Art of the Basket. Traditional Basketry From Around The World, Thames & Hudson, London, 2001
Ed Rossbach, Basket as Textile Art, Studio Vita, London, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto, Johannesburg
I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.