African Baskets & Trivets
These sisal baskets & trivets are handcrafted by a collective of artisan women in Rwanda. Natural grass is wrapped and wound into beautiful geometric patterns that look like woven bowls. These Rwandan crafts are beautifully functional and are also perfect for hanging on the wall. However you use them, these attractive African baskets & trivets make a bold ethnic statement!
The creation of Rwandan agaseke baskets has been a tradition that goes back centuries and the creation of these has literally been woven into the fabric of Rwandan culture. They have been used to carry grains, food, and other household goods, and also have become an important part of many ceremonies such as christenings or weddings.
Historically, weaving these was a skill that was passed down from mother to daughter through countless generations. It was considered a rite of passage which marked the transition from being a girl into becoming a woman, and it was also recognized as a symbol depicting maternal care for children, and for the country itself. This charming tradition was maintained across the centuries into modern times, but then following the 1994 genocide of the Rwandan people, it took on an entirely new meaning as well.
After the genocide finally ended, the surviving women of the country took it upon themselves to help rebuild the shattered nation, as well as to revive their decimated families. There were countless orphans created in the wake of the genocide, many of them having no family to turn to for protection or for survival.
In order to support many of these orphans and to provide for their own families, a great many women in Rwanda banded together for the purpose of creating an artisan cooperative. Regardless of what their past differences might have been, these women decided to work together for the sake of their family and friends and to try to create a brighter future for their country.
The ingenious way these women devised to provide for loved ones and to help rebuild the country, while keeping their culture alive and thriving, was by creating agaseke baskets. These would take on the symbol for the peace which had finally settled over the country. In addition, the traditional zigzag patterns of the basket came to be understood as an image of two women who were holding hands, embracing unity, reconciling the past, and achieving a newfound hope for a better future in the country.
Producing the Baskets
The materials used to craft these include such natural raw materials as sisal fibers, banana leaves, sweet grass, and raffia. These days, the sisal fibers used in basket creation are in fairly short supply in the country, and it has forced the weavers to use alternative materials in some cases, and has also prompted them to seek ways of growing their own sisal.
Many of the artists and basket weavers in Rwanda are seeking their own space, so they can cultivate sisal which they would use in their craft production. The sisal fibers which are incorporated come from the leaves of the sisal plant, and when available, they are generally sold in some of the local markets. Harvesting the sisal leaves must be done with extreme care, so that the fibers are not damaged, and so they can present the best possible finish when woven into a basket.
Agaseke Baskets Today
Four young people who get married in Rwandan culture, these have a very special significance. Traditionally, the bride's family would offer one of these to the groom, and the lid on the basket symbolized the pure, untouched characteristic of the young woman, who was giving herself to a man for the first time.
On the groom's side, the groom's family would also offer a basket to the bride, representing the fact that she would now be the keeper of the groom's family secrets. The basket would then be intended to stay in her room always, and never be moved anywhere else, because only she should be privy to the groom's family secrets.
In addition to these symbolic traditional meanings and practices, the containers would also have more functional uses around the house, being used to store fruits and grains, as well as to be used as simple decorative pieces throughout the household. In modern Rwandan society, they still have tremendous value and meaning and are often used to store essential household goods such as tobacco, oils, cloths, medicine, herbs, ornaments, food, and even money.
Whereas in the past, the symbolic presentation of one of these often indicated the promises exchanged between bride and groom, today they have mostly come to be symbolized as the incarnation of the peace which prevails over the country. There has been a sizable cultural transformation which has taken place in Rwanda since 1994, but the agaseke basket still retains a prominent place in the culture of the country's citizenry.
While the symbology of these has changed a bit throughout the ages, its usefulness and functionality are still intact. Nowadays, the appeal of the Rwandan agaseke peace basket has become known throughout the world, and it has become a prized decorative item for individuals who recognize their beauty and significance, regardless of personal background.