Friday, June 3, 2016

How to Hang Baskets on a Wall

Wall of Zimbabwe baskets by

Baskets look amazing when they are mounted to a wall, like this display created by But how do you hang a basket on a wall?

Holding baskets up to the light help you find
holes through which to feed the line.
Here are some tips to help you get started with Baskets of Africa's best-selling wall décor:

1) most baskets are light enough to hang with fishing line (I use “Multi-Purpose Line” that is supposed to be able to handle up to 15 lbs.) and a small nail;

2) hold your basket up to a light to see where fishing line can be fed through;

3) create the fishing line loop near the center of the basket so that it will lay flat on the wall.

Both ChicvilleUSA and HGTV mention using nails driven through the center of baskets to hang them. This would be faster and easier, but it would also damage most of the baskets and be noticeable from close-up.

Each Type of Basket Will be Different

Winnowing baskets, like Binga and Gokwe baskets from Zimbabwe, are of the most popular kinds of baskets to hang. They are relatively flat, very lightweight, and have a loose weave, so even the largest baskets are a breeze to hang.
15 lb. fishing line, needle nose tweezers,
and scissors are all you need!

Shallow bowls from Botswana have a smooth surface because they are very tightly stitched. To hang a Botswana basket, feed the fishing line through several of the stitches that cover the coils, then tie the fishing line into a loop.

Chivi baskets from Zimbabwe feature starburst patterns that look amazing on a wall – but they also have very thick, heavy coils. Distribute the weight of the basket by feeding the fishing line through several of the twine stitches before creating a loop.

Sisal bowls from Rwanda come with a loop on the back, so they come to you ready to hang… ta-da!

Rwenzori bowls from southern Uganda are colorful, geometric, and smooth. They are lightweight, but have a tight weave, so to create a loop you will need to feed fishing line work from the front of the basket. Using needle-nosed tweezers, carefully push the line between the coils to the back of the basket (see photos below).

Bukedo & Raffia baskets often come with loops woven
into the basket. To hang my heavy 23-inch basket,
I used a strong hook and made sure it was in a wall stud.
Bukedo & Raffia baskets from Uganda are one of the most popular baskets to use for wall décor. HGTV Magazine featured a grouping of these baskets in a beautiful overlapping composition. Most Bukedo & Raffia baskets come with a loop woven into the back of the basket for hanging. These are heavier baskets, though, so we recommend using a more secure picture hook instead of just a nail. I have a big, beautiful, heavy, 23-inch Uganda basket. To hang it I used a big hook from the hardware store, making sure the hook went into the stud of my wall. The basket hangs above my sofa, so I wanted it to withstand any accidental bumps from my kid, my cat, or my guests.

My wall of baskets (see photo below) is a work in progress; there is room to grow. I would love to add some Mini Botswana bowls. They are about 6.75" wide, and the warm colors and linear designs would be different than the patterns I have so far. But the texture of the Botswana baskets is what I love. They are intricately woven, so the surface is smooth, but the materials are earthier and less "polished" than the Rwenzori bowls.

For these Rwenzori bowls, I fed the fishing line from the FRONT of the basket, then tied a knot to make a loop.
The line is nearly invisible from the front of the basket.

For Binga baskets (left), Zulu Wire baskets (center), and Gokwe baskets (right), you can feed the line from the back.

Here is my finished wall! From the top left: 11-inch Masterweave Binga,
23-inch Banded Weave Bowl from Uganda, 7-inch Rwenzori,
12-inch Munyumbwe bowl, another 7-inch Rwenzori, and a
12-inch Gokwe. All baskets are from Baskets of Africa.
The Zulu Wire bowl matches the glaze on my ceramic lamp, and is
colorful and intricate enough to be on a wall by itself.

I really had fun with this project. It surprises me how different the living room feels now that the baskets are up. Explore Baskets of Africa's collection, and have fun creating your own display!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day!

The relationship of mothers and their children is a topic that we often address when we write about the different baskets we represent. Our weavers are almost all women. They weave at home, at the end of the day or during breaks from their farming duties.
Shona Artist Letwin Mugavasi & Family

The weavers are not only earning income to support their families, but they are also keeping alive a tradition that has been passed on from mother to daughter for many generations.

Often the purpose or creation of a basket is steeped in tradition, as well:
·      Large Ukhamba baskets are traditional wedding presents;
·      In Kenya, a bride’s grandmother will present her with jewelry in a beaded woven box;
·      The natural dyes used for many of our baskets are carefully guarded family recipes, so baskets made by mother and daughter often have similar styles.

By purchasing one of these unique baskets, you are contributing to the preservation of African culture and the weavers’ financial independence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Showroom Open this Weekend!

Come check out our new showroom this Friday and Saturday, March 18-19!

"We are so excited to be opening to the public," said owner Cael Chappell. "Our products used to have a big presence at Peacecraft, so ever since that closed we have been looking to promote our handmade, Fair Trade crafts in New Mexico."
New Showroom at 4603 McLeod NE, Albuquerque, 87109

Located at 4603 McLeod NE, at the corner of Jefferson and McLeod in Albuquerque, the showroom is open on Fridays 10 am - 4 pm, and by appointment.

"We will be open this Saturday to give people a chance to get a basket in time for Easter," said Chappell. "Our grass baskets from Ghana are perfect for that!"

Ghana Bolga Mini Market Baskets
Grass Mini Market Baskets from Ghana
Baskets of Africa has been a member of the Fair Trade Federation for over 10 years.

"We are very proud to be members of the Fair Trade Federation," said Chappell. "Everything we do revolves around our mission to help the weavers and artists in Africa."

The showroom features Shona stone sculpture, handmade textiles such as Kente cloth and Kuba cloth, African masks, and baskets from over a dozen countries.

All of these products are also available online:, and To make an appointment, call (505) 323-2315.

Kente Cloth

Shoowa Mat

Shona Sculpture — Loving Family

Sisal Bowl

Cloth Handle Shopping Tote

Friday, February 12, 2016

The True Size of Africa

At Baskets of Africa, we represent weavers from several countries throughout the continent. Our Bolga baskets come from Ghana, in West Africa; we have an amazing collection of baskets from Botswana, in the lush delta of Southern Africa; and many of our products come from Zululand in South Africa. These products are are very different because these places are very far away from each other, with very different climates and traditions. Africa is HUGE, and it is not easy to grasp just how large it is.

All of China, the lower 48 United States, and most of Europe would easily fit inside Africa. This is one of the all time best maps to illustrate how large Africa really is.

In my 25 years of experience talking with people about Africa, one of the greatest misconceptions is that Africa is a country with states in it rather than a continent full of countries. Many people don't really seem to grasp how extremely large and diverse Africa is in geographical size, but also in culture, history, language, art, and peoples.

I love this map Kai Krause put together in 2010 to illustrate the geographical size because, " everyday thinking, Africa is just about always hugely underestimated - even by college grads, off by factor of 2 or 3." The full article on Kai's website can be found here:

He was writing about the size of Africa, but I find that the same statement can be applied to just about anything to do with Africa.

Click here for a larger, more complete image
Kai Krause True Size of Africa Map

Click here for a larger, more complete image

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Every Box We Ship Supports Forest Restoration

UPS Carbon Neutral Shipment Logo
At Baskets of Africa, the way we do business is very important to us. From the start, our focus has been to give back as much as possible to the weavers who create our amazing products.

But as the business has grown, so have the opportunities to do business in a manner about which we can be proud. One such opportunity is the Carbon Neutral Shipment program that UPS offers. Baskets of Africa is pleased to have been supporting this program for eight years now.

We pay a bit extra on every box we ship in order to support the restoration to dense forests in a 24,000 acre tract of land in Northern California. The Nature Conservancy manages the land and this UPS program helps to fund it.

"Fighting climate change, restoring critical wildlife habitat, providing jobs to the local community— the Garcia River Forest project represents a powerful combination of stewardship efforts that will change the way people think about forest conservation.

The 23,780-acre forest has become a model site for demonstrating the important role forests play in addressing climate change. Its ecosystems safeguard habitat for rare and threatened species. And careful, selective logging of its redwood and Douglas fir timber contributes to the local economy of Mendocino County." - The Nature Conservancy

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Three Zulu Weavers, Three Unique Weaving Styles

At Baskets of Africa, we have the honor of having worked with some of the same artists for years and years, especially the creators of Zulu Ukhamba baskets. Over time, some of the weavers have developed very distinct — and beautiful — artistic styles, especially Jabusilwe Mhlongo, Thulisile Nsele, and Nomkhosi Nkosi, who always have at least one basket ready for us to pick up.

Jabusiliwe's baskets are striking and unusual because of her use of pink. Most of our weavers still make their dyes by hand using plants native to the grassy mountains where the weavers live. Pink is extremely difficult to make and, therefore, very rare in Zulu baskets. Jabusiliwe uses the pink sparingly, usually on a very light colored basket with other muted colors worked into the design.

Weaver from Zululand holds a Ukhamba basket she made.
Zulu weaver Jabusiliwe Mhlongo and her Ukhamba basket.

Like Jabusiliwe, Thulisile uses unusual colors like warm red, burgundy, and purple in her baskets, but she often creates a modern, organic, zigzag pattern for her tall, slender Ukhamba baskets. Her body of work reflects a mastery of her craft and an eye for modern design. Having traveled so far from the simple farm home where they are created, her baskets successfully accent a variety of urban interior designs.

Zulu weaver at her home holds a Ukhamba basket she created.
Thulisile Nsele uses bold designs for her Ukhambas.

Nomkhosi uses traditional colors and traditional patterns for her baskets. The diamonds and stair step patterns have specific meanings when this type of basket is given as a wedding gift from the bride's family to the groom's. Nomkhosi's baskets are extraordinary because she often uses these traditional patterns in an asymmetrical presentation, so the patterns do not repeat. The colors she uses for her Ilala palm are warm and inviting, and her weaving is so expert that the surface of her baskets is tight and smooth.

Ukhamba weaver and her basket with traditional diamond and stair step designs.
Nomkhosi uses traditional patterns in her designs.

These three weavers not only represent a mastery of their craft, but also serve as as ambassadors of basket weaving as traditional art continues to find its place in modern décor. View our collection of Ukhambas at: Baskets of Africa — Zulu Ilala Palm Baskets.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Five Best Baskets to Give as Gifts

At Baskets of Africa, our collection of Fair Trade baskets covers all color palettes and purposes. Here are our top five basket choices for different folks on your list.

Colorful Bowls Made from Woven Wire
Zulu Wire Bowls and Cup
  1 - Woven Wire Baskets from Zululand
$17 — $200
Whether you want to give a few small pieces as a desk set, or a platter to decorate a countertop or wall, the vibrant colors and swirling designs make Zulu wire a lovely gift. Have a “tech” person on your gift list?  These bowls were featured on the WireCutter as a “cool fusion of traditional art using modern materials.”

2 - Lidded Baskets
$24 — $80
Put a little something (Swazi jewelry, perhaps?) in one of these charming lidded baskets, add a bow, and…voilà! The recipient has a beautiful keepsake basket. We have several lidded baskets to choose from, including nesting peace baskets from Rwanda, colorful Rwenzori baskets from Uganda, beaded baskets from Kenya, and earthy pots from Botswana and South Africa.
Market Baskets from Ghana
Market Baskets from Ghana

3 - Bolga Baskets from Ghana
$16.50 — $245
This is a gift that will come in handy all year, and last for years to come. The small baskets are great for creating your own gift basket, or give a larger basket that can be used for shopping. Ghana Bolga baskets are beautiful, strong, and versatile.

4 - Sparkly Beaded Bowls from Kenya
$25 — $65
Artists in Kenya take shimmering glass beads, string them on wire, and weave the wire into bowls. The result is a cheerful, colorful, affordable gift that will be sure to please.
Coil Woven Bowl from Uganda
Rwenzori Bowl with Floral Pattern

5 - Rwenzori Weaving from Uganda
$27 —$134
From small bowls to serving trays and cups, Rwenzori weaving features colorful, geometric designs. So pretty! HGTV featured these baskets as one of their favorite items to decorate a wall.