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 d├ęcor. View our collection of Ukhambas at: Baskets of Africa — Zulu Ilala Palm Baskets.

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