The art of Bolga Basket weaving in Ghana is a complex process – from splitting the straws to dyeing. Learn more about the journey and find out how it’s done!
The name of the vegetation used for weaving the baskets is Veta Vera, also known as Elephant grass.
Elephant grass grows in the tropical parts of Ghana and are brought to Bolgatanga for weaving. Weavers normally buy the dried straws in bundles for basket weaving. The grass grows quickly and needs less nutrients to flourish. In Ghana, they use it mostly for weaving, but they also grow across tropical West Africa, where they use them for other purposes. The basket making process involves many stages. These include:
Before the weavers start weaving the actual basket, they buy enough elephant grass and begin the preparation process. A a large quantity of grass is required to complete a single basket. Preparation of the grass starts from splitting the straws into two with the teeth in its dry state. The straw is then twisted on the weavers lap, like a hair braid, then released. This is done to achieve the wavy texture, which makes it easy to work with. It also makes the straw resistant to breakage. The straws are then ready for the dyeing process.
The majority of dyes weavers use are natural. Fruit, leaves and bark of plants among others, are what they use to dye the straws. The material for dyeing the straw is put in a cooking pot together with water and allowed to boil until the desired colour is achieved. They then remove the dyed straws from the pot and allowed to dry. The actual weaving starts after all the required materials are ready.
Once the straws are completely ready, the artisans can begin weaving. Weaving is the most labour-intensive and tiring aspect of the basket making. It requires both patience and skill. A round bolga baskeround bolga baskett can have over 25,000 knots and it can take about a week from preparing the straw (splitting, twisting and dying). Weavers start weaving the base and then build up to the top. Click here to watch
As Bolgatanga is in a very hot region, the soil tends to be dry and farming is only possible between April and July. This means that the income from weaving is vital to the women in the business. It enables them to have enough income to send their children to school, pay health bills and feed their family. Women are mostly the bread winners for their families. Basket making provides them with an alternative sustainable income throughout the year.