The beautiful trivets and baskets that our ladies make takes skills and patience to transform the raw materials into these wonderful works of art. Historically weaving baskets has always been part of the culture but now instead of making bowels to carry garden produce they make them to share their culture with you.
Baskets are made from two parts, the inner part which is made from local grasses. The outer colorful part, which is called sizal, is made from a plant called Imigwegwe (emmy gway gway) but before it becomes part of the weave it has to go through many steps.
The Imigwegwe plant looks like a sort of cactus plant or overgrown aloe vera plant which is grown all over Rwanda and is used to make fibre for ropes, the fantastic headwear local Rwandan men wear when dancing, as well as historically used as a kind of soap. But now the primary use is in crafts and is grown as a cash crop.
You don’t just simply pick the leaves, these leaves are heavy and are coated in a thick outer coating so you need to cut and saw them from the plant. To get the fibre from the Imigwegwe plant there are two methods which can be used, the first is to bash the leaves with a stick or metal bar, this leaves a lot of mess and the fibres all in a mess. Our weavers find it better to use a machete and slice the leaves into strips and then using the back of the knife strip the pulp away.
As the pulp is stripped away the clean white fibres start to shine through, and after a final wash and clean they are ready to hang and dry in the gentle Rwandan breeze. These clean fibres are now ready for the next stage
To colour the fibre, or sizal, small parcels powered dyes are mixed with boiling water. The sizal is mixed with the boiling hot dye and then hung out to dry.
Now that all the parts are created, it is time to start to craft the baskets, this process can take over one week to make one basket, depending on the size and complexity of design. This is where our artisans craft their skills and their amazing abilities comes to the fore.
Small pieces of grass are bundled together and the coloured sizal is wrapped around the grass bundle. As the spiral grows more grass is added and the shape and patters are formed.