Telephone Wire Bowls

South Africa

From the Zulu word meaning ‘with hands’, this project was established in 1996 in the subsistence farming area of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa where unemployment was up to 80%.

The project was established to utilise the traditional skills in basketwork, sewing & beading. New skills and techniques have since been introduced through training workshops and now 650 people are receiving an income through this project. Most of the artisans are women, who can make the baskets in their own home and at a time that best suits, balancing their home duties

Almost half the weavers are aged between 16 – 28yrs and employment is increasingly difficult to find, therefore this work gives them an income and a sense of hope for the future.

A creche has been established in the community for weavers, whilst other support comes in the form of sponsorship for local soccer competitions as well as providing assistance with ongoing school requests eg. mowing the school’s sports fields.

Production Techniques

Bundles of telephone or electricty cable wire are cut and prepared for the weavers to take home. The artisans take home as may bundles as they wish and use it to weave a bowl/basket from the outside inwards.
Depending on the skill of a weaver, a small 12cm bowl can take from 3 to 5 hours to complete, whilst a large 40cm basket can take up tp 40 hours to complete. No two baskets will be identical as each artisan draws on their own creative knowledge base to produce unique designs and patterns for each product.

Once completed, the finished baskets are then returned, and the artisans are paid per basket. They then select new bundles of wire in the quantities they decide upon to take home to transform into another beautiful product.