For centuries South Africa's Zulu people have been famous for the sturdy and beautiful baskets they weave from grasses and palm leaf. The weaving was so tight that the best ukhamba baskets were actually used to store beer! Today these baskets are still woven in the countryside, but the Zulus living in urban area have invented a new kind of basket, the imbenge basket woven entirely of recycled telephone wire. The baskets are as bright and colorful as the telephone wire, and very sturdy. They are also completely washable! In recent years people in craft cooperatives in the the neighboring nation of Zimbabwe have developed their own distinct style of telephone wire basket, which we are also offering here. These baskets are all one-of-a-kind, and our inventory is constantly changing.
A museum show from the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe has featured these baskets. Read about them in the book Recycled Re-Seen: Folk Art from the Global Scrap Heap by Charlene Cerny and Suzanne Seriff, Abrams/Museum of New Mexico:
The fine, even texture and colors of telephone wire are used in this basket to produce an intricate, swirling design. The techniques and aesthetic of traditional grass basket-weaving have been beautifully adapted by contemporary Zulu artisans to this readly available scrap material..
Our recycled products, including telephone-wire baskets, were featured in the March 2005 issue of Sky magazine. The article, Bags, Bottle Caps and Tin Cans: Craftspeople from Around the World Create from Recycled Materials tells the story of our long fascination with people's resourceful use of discarded materials.
Lovers of these baskets will want to own this newly published book, written by one of the leaders in developing and promoting the craft, along with a major collector of the baskets.