Fara and Pamwe for Basket Case II (2015)
The EUNIC Zimbabwe Cluster (British Council, Alliance Française and Goethe Institute) and The National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, announced 2014 the second edition of Basket Case, a visual art and design project bringing together prominent African and European artists and designers, who were commissioned to create new pieces in collaboration with basket weavers located in various parts of Zimbabwe.
Two acclaimed European designers, Matali Crasset (France) and Sebastian Herkner (Germany), were also leading creative workshops with two weaving communities, drawing from their own expertise and the weavers’ traditional craft to develop innovative designs enhancing the communities’ range of objects.
Sebastian Herkner developed a range of baskets in collaboration with the Binga Craft Centre in the north of Zimbabwe. Taking part in this project were the Binga Craft Centre (Binga), Bulawayo Home Industries (Bulawayo), Lupane Women’s Centre (Lupane), Step Trust (Honde Valley) and Zienzele Foundation (Masvingo).
Basket Case II is developed in two phases: artists residencies and design workshops held during spring and summer 2014. A major exhibition about the project was last autumn in the new renovated National Gallery of Zimbabwe. The project also included a series of talks and debates on interdisciplinary practice and sustainability in the fields of crafts, design and visual arts.
Basket Case II is curated by Christine Eyene, Guild Research Fellow in Contemporary Art, University of Central Lancashire, and Raphael Chikukwa, Chief Curator of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. The project is a EUNIC Zimbabwe initiative and is funded by the European Union.
producer: Binga Crafts Centre
project assistant: Robin Benito Schmidt
pictures by Eric Gauss
At the end of April last year, I visited the Binga Craft Centre in Zimbabwe together with my assistant Robin. We had been invited by Christine Eyene to participate in the second additionof Basket Case, an intercultural exchange of designers and artists from Europe with basket makers in Zimbabwe. Binga is a small community in the north of the country at the Lake Kariba. The Binga Craft Centre is a workshop for basket making and an important social institution for the Tonga people in this area. More than a thousand women work for this centre in homework. For most of them, it is the only way to generate some money for themselves and their families. Making baskets has a long heritage and importance for the Tonga culture. In Binga we stayed and worked together with 20 women at an age from 17 to 70 years and their centre manager Matabbeki Mudenda. The women came to the centre from within an area of 100 kilometres to participate in the workshop and exchange ideas.
Tonga baskets are made of natural fibres and have their typical black-and-white pattern. For several years, the women are trained in the skill to make this decorations in bicolor. The process starts with selecting the right grass fibres, cleaning it and cutting it in similar widths. Then they start with the bottom of the basket which takes almost one day. Step by step the final design was created. Our approach was to use their amazing knowledge and techniques and to influence their crafts with some new parameters. I wanted to work with colors and material combinations typical of my designs.
Visiting the Tonga Museum of Culture and Crafts in Binga, I discovered some beautiful pots made of clay. This was one concept to combine two traditional crafts in one product – basket making and pottery. The research for colours or coloured material was more difficult. The range of goods are very limited in this area. The next bigger city Bulawayo is almost 400 kilometres away. Our idea was to use something which is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to get. We were searching for a material which the women can get in Binga and carry to their villages by themselves. Finally, we found the very popular rice or corn bags made of synthetic fibres in bright colours. We asked the women to use these to create their classic patterns in a new way. Our aim was to generate and produce simple and authentic objects and to present them finally in Europe to get attention and enter a new market.
Fara is a collection of baskets and bowls using colourful fibres. The use of the objects is optional and limitless. Various patterns and colours give Fara an individual and personal aspect. Each woman is using a kind of personal weaving technique which is like her own hand writing and design language in the products. The meaning of Fara is . Pamwe means and refers to the connection of clay and natural fibres, pottery and basket-making. Both traditional crafts are connected with each other. The objects are presenting the beauty of the Tonga culture.” Fara and Pamwe were made by the women of Binga Crafts Centre within the framework of the Basket Case workshop from the Eunic programme financed by the European Committee. Basket Case II is the second edition. Binga Crafts Centre is a social structure in Binga. Its aim is to assist women in learning a specific craft and to put it on the market.