By Paul Ndiho
In western Uganda, more than 200 women dubbed the Rubona basket weavers association are using naturally dyed raffia to make baskets of all shapes and sizes. The baskets are then sold to international markets.
Baskets have long been part of Ugandan culture and many women here still use the traditional ones known as “Ekibo ‘ to carry various goods. Here at the Rubona basket weaver’s association, an outlet on the outskirts of Fort Portal, Uganda — Women are trained and dedicated to weaving basket “masterpieces.” They use naturally dyed raffia to make their products. Kallen kengazi, sales manager at the Rubona basket weavers association explains the process.
“This is plant is called Rubia and out of this plant we get maroon, yellow, and brown. We use the tubers from this plant to make certain colors.
About 200 women work here — they produce and sell about 500 hundred baskets each month. This is a very successful project that is self-sustaining and contributes to the economic independence of local women in the region. These women have developed a way of incorporating modern designs into traditional basket weaving and still sell their work at reasonable prices.
“The women who make these baskets work in their fields or gardens and when they are free, they work on their baskets.
To make a quality basket, the weavers select different plants and then extract their leaves or roots. These are then dyed and dried.
The weaver brings out unique colored patterns as the basket shapes up from the center. A 12-inch diameter basket takes about a week to complete. The baskets are used for storage or put up as wall hangings.
Kellen says it took years of research and experiments until a wide range of colors were obtained from local plants. The most recent additions to the color palette are blue from the indigo plant, and black from the bark of the wattle tree. Kenganzi, explains the different types of baskets and what they are used for…
The project is owned and run by the local women. The income goes directly to the local women to meet their basic needs. Once the handicrafts are finished, they are carefully packed for shipping.
Baskets in Uganda were traditionally used to store food, as decorations during weddings and even to ferry secrets from one woman to another. Through the Rubona basket weavers association, these women can earn a living but the effectiveness of the group will only be determined once they leave and put the skills they have learned here to the test, by running their own businesses.
Paul Ndiho is a Ugandan – American video journalist/ executive producer, Africa Innovations & Technology based in Washington D.C with interests in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. He is passionate about mentorship and developing the next generation of Africa’s young leaders. Email:email@example.com, Facebook: Paul Ndiho and Twitter: @pndiho