In East Africa, basket weaving is a tradition that became a viable business with All Across Africa baskets
It is custom in Rwanda and Uganda to give baskets to friends and family members as a present to celebrate a major milestone in life such as marriage or the birth of a child. Baskets are proudly displayed as symbols of wealth but for the weavers, it symbolizes an escape from a life of poverty. The proceeds from All Across Africa baskets have helped countless women earn a living and support their families by giving them an opportunity to produce and sell their baskets to a developed external market.
The designs on the baskets are hardly random. There’s significance and meaning behind each design. The sunburst pattern is known as the hope design. Similar to the Rwandan flag, this sunburst image stands for the country’s collective hope for a new dawn and brighter future. The unity design contains a three-line pattern, which symbolizes the three ethnic groups that once divided Rwanda in 1994 but now work together to heal old wounds.
Perhaps the most common basket that is given amongst friends and family members is the agaseke basket. Also known as the friendship basket, its cathedral shape is signature to Rwanda and is a symbol of generosity, gratitude and compassion, and embodies giving. Thus, agaseke baskets are presented at events such as weddings, births and graduations stuffed full of fresh and dried foods as a token of love. These friendship baskets are proudly displayed in their homes and helps give meaning to a familiar Rwandan proverb: “Savoring the world only takes place when you get along. The world makes no sense without friendship.”
The sunrise pattern is different from the sunburst. The linear rays emanating from the sunrise design is reminiscent of dawn’s first light peeking through the morning mist over the beautiful hills in Rwanda and Uganda. The radiating light reveals stillness and peace along with the promise of a new day. Both nations sit on the equator and are consistently greeted by the sun at 6AM year round.
In Rwanda and Uganda music and dance is ingrained in the culture. Stories are told through dance and they pay homage to the life-giving environment and animals. Young Rwandan girls perform the harvest dance during the festival of umuganura to celebrate first fruits. The bold, pointed patterns on these All Across Africa baskets reflect the full, sharp movements and brilliant costumes that go hand-in-hand with the dance rituals.
The circular patterns on baskets symbolize the cycle of rebirth. Rain also plays a vital role in the rebirth. East Africa has two rainy seasons, each lasting two to three months. Because the majority of East Africa’s people rely for the rain to cultivate the seeds they sow, the rain pattern represents the cleansing of one life stage and hope in the promise of growth.
For more information on the handcrafted All Across Africa baskets including how to purchase one, please visit www.allacrossafrica.org.