Bolga Basket of Ghana

Introduction to Bolga baskets

Bolga baskets are a type of handcrafted artisan basket originating from the Upper East region of Ghana. These baskets have been popular for centuries due to their durability, versatility, and unique design. The baskets are made from natural materials such as elephant grass, which is hand-dyed and woven into intricate patterns.

Bolga baskets are known for their excellent quality and sturdiness. They are made to last and are perfect for carrying heavy loads. This make them a popular choice for outdoor markets, farms, and grocery stores. These baskets are also used for carrying laundry, storing household items, and as decorative pieces. Due to their handcrafted nature, each basket is unique and has its own character. This makes them perfect for adding some personality to your home decor.

Bolga baskets have not only been a part of Ghanaian culture for centuries.  They have also gained widespread popularity in other countries around the world. These baskets have become a symbol of African craftsmanship and culture. They can be found in many homes, retail stores, and artisan markets across the globe.

Origin

These traditional handmade baskets come from Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana. They are other straw African baskets in parts of West Africa like in Senegal, Mali and Ivory Coast . However, in Ghana,  Bolgatanga, local weavers who are usually self-taught produce them commercially . If you guessed that the bolga comes from Bolgatanga, you are right. We call them that, because they are made in Bolgatanga. Bolga being the shortened version of Bolgatanga. Clever right?

The Early uses of Bolga baskets 

Traditionally, these baskets were mainly used for farming activities such as storage (e.g. tubers like yam), and colanders to separate grains like millet, rice or wheat from waste. 

The baskets have not always had handles like we see today. With the growing patronage, their practicality and versatile characteristics, weavers have come up with the idea of making versions with handles to serve as markets bags or shopping bags.  This makes it easy and practical for carrying items in them.

Why are the Bolga baskets so colourful ?

If you thought the baskets have always come in different colours like you see today, I’m afraid that hasn’t been the case. 

They were normally made in the natural nude colours which is in fact the colour of the dried elephant grass. 

Over the course of several years, local artisan weavers have adapted to meet the taste of the foreign buyers, who love them for their beauty, sturdiness and versatility. The weavers have done so by adding a touch of colour to get more variety to suit the increasing demand from across the globe.

These creations come in all shapes and sizes and are available in a vibrant array of colours and different patterns of weaving.

The baskets are lightweight and sometimes with strong, ergonomic leather handles. There are baskets made as shopping bags, laundry containers, planters, dog beds, baby cots and so much more.  

Personally I think they are better than plastics containers. I like art and by just looking at how all these individual straws are intertwined in a logical yet chaotic way to produce these masterpieces, it’s just mind blowing.

Moreover they are not only practical but also classy. They bring life to any space. From your kitchen to your bedroom. Whatever your taste is, there is something for you. 

Usually the taller and deeper baskets can be used for toy storage, laundry or for plants,providing a touch of colourful decoration in your interior. Whilst the bag versions are more for accessorising outfits and for shopping.

Dyed Straws for Bolga baskets

Let’s look at the process of making these baskets now. Ready? 

The production process of Bolga baskets is entirely eco-friendly, as it uses natural, sustainable materials, and does not involve any machinery. The basket-making process is labour-intensive and requires skill and dedication to achieve the intricate designs and patterns that make Bolga baskets so appealing.

Elephant grass (the main raw material ) is a wild and flexible grass commonly found in the southern parts of Ghana, around Kumasi and its nearby villages.  Farmers harvest, prepare and dry them for a few days and sell them in regular bundles of the same length to the weavers.

The traditional method of making Bolga baskets involves soaking elephant grass in water to make it pliable before it is woven into a basket. The weavers split the straws with their teeth in 2 straws and twist them in order to strengthen the grass and make them ready for the weaving. After this the straws can finally be dyed in boiling water and batik dyed to get the vibrant colours that give them their unique appeal. Once the dyed straws are completely dried, the process of weaving begins. Weaving from the base up to the rim.  After the basket is weaved to the desired size and shape, the handles are carefully attached using the same method. Additionally, some baskets are embellished with colorful designs to add flair to their appearance.

How Long does it take to weave a basket. 

A medium market basket has over 25,000 knots and it can take about a week from preparing the straw (splitting, twisting and dying) to the creating the final product. Below are a variety  of Bolga baskets:

Selection of handwoven Bolga baskets

Reshaping your baskets

These baskets are sometimes squashed into boxes or sacks to ship them due to their bulky nature. Besides it is also to reduce packaging and postage cost.This is very rare, but if  you get your baskets in a misshapen form, don’t panic. It is very easy to reshape them. Watch how to reshape your basket 

Conclusion

In conclusion, Bolga baskets are an essential part of the cultural heritage of Ghana. Their unique designs, durability, and eco-friendliness have made them popular in many other countries around the world. Bolga baskets are more than just a practical household item. They are a piece of art that represents African culture and craftsmanship. It is important to support local artisans and small businesses by purchasing handmade items like Bolga baskets

 

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