Bold, beautiful and completely brilliant, you’ve probably come across a Bolga basket without realising, and almost certainly without knowing much about the story behind them.
Identified by their bright, striking colours these hand-made straw baskets originate from the town of Bolgatanga, (hence the name ‘Bolga’), in northern Ghana. The baskets have a centuries-long history, originating from the ‘pyo’ baskets used to store and sift millet, and were an important part of traditional funeral rites.
So, whether you’ve never heard of Bolga baskets or couldn’t live without them, here is our quick introduction to guarantee you fall in love:
1/ A wonderful weave: Bolga baskets are made by the intricate weaving of long ‘straws’ of dried elephant grass, bought by artisans in big bundles from markets. The natural grass lends the baskets their durability and flexibility and allows the weavers to create wonderful patterns and shapes. Lola & Mawu also source baskets made from scraps of recycled fabric, which is incredibly sustainable as well as stunning.
2/ Marvellous masterpieces: All the Bolga baskets are hand-made in a long and laborious process. Through splitting, rolling, twisting and weaving, the baskets slowly come to life over 3 to 5 days in all shapes and sizes. Once the right straws have been selected, (a crucial skill), the bundles are dyed a myriad of bright colours to then be woven to the selected design. It is these colours which give the baskets their unique appeal as interior design pieces, storage baskets or even the humble shopping basket.
3/ Oh so very Vegan: Did you know a basket could even be vegan? Well, yes! All Lola & Mawu baskets are finished without leather handles or rims. Our baskets are woven with a strong, robust, straw-wrapped top – beautiful and ethical.
4/ Superhero strength: Bolga baskets are incredibly strong and durable. Due to the nature of the weave and materials used, they can be flattened, filled and used every day with very little wear. As well as being fantastically functional, Bolga baskets earn a gold medal in the eco-credential stakes. They can be reused again and again for a variety of purposes - and there’s not a scrap of plastic (boo!) in sight.
5/ Little pots of gold: Traditionally, the majority of basket makers are women who are subsistence farmers - that is, they rely almost exclusively on the land for their food and livelihood. Unsurprisingly, the weather in northern Ghana is relentlessly hot, which makes farming tough work. The women are able to sit in the shade, chatting and working their baskets, and bring in an extra income for themselves, and support their families over the unforgiving dry season.
6/ Unashamedly Fair: Bolga baskets are 100% fair trade. Because of the demand for these marvellous baskets from across the globe, the artisans are able to sell in an open market. Fair trade benefits everyone in the community, especially women artisans, who are paid a fair wage for their work. On top of that, you can feel good about your basket every day. There’s not much to argue with there.