Bolga Basket Weaving Process

A frafra woman weaving bolga basket

The art of Bolga Basket weaving in Ghana is a complex process – from splitting the straws to trimming the spiky ends. Learn more about the journey and find out how it’s done!

Raw Materials For Bolga Basket Weaving

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:

  1. Splitting the straws
  2. Dyeing them
  3. Weaving
  4. Trimming the spiky ends

Splitting Straws For Bolga Basket Weaving

Before the weavers start weaving the actual basket, they buy enough elephant grass and begin the preparation process. 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 a flat smooth surface 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.

A woman splitting straws for bolga baskets

Dyeing of Straws For Bolga Basket Weaving

The majority of dyes weavers use are natural. Fruits, 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. The weavers submerge the  prepared straws in the dye till the desired colour is achieved. The dyed straws are then removed from the pot and allowed to dry. The actual weaving starts after all the required materials are ready. Watch the dyeing process here

A bolga weaver holding dyed straws for bolga basketsDyed straws for bolga baskets

Dyeing of straws for weaving

Weaving of Bolga Baskets

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 basket can have over 25,000 knots and it can take about a week from preparing the straw (splitting, twisting and dying) to trimming the spiky ends after weaving.

Trimming the spiky ends.

This is the last stage of the weaving process. When the weavers finish weaving, the basket is normally covered with spiky ends of straws. The artisans use a razor blade to cut off the ends in order to smooth out the spiky ends. This process is the final stage of the weaving process. Watch a weaver trimming a finished basket.

Weavers start weaving the base and then build up to the top.  Click here to watch

a man weaving bolga basket

 How does weaving benefit the women in the team?

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. Shop African baskets

 

 

 

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