Wednesday, 18 July 2012
The telephone wire basket is a relatively recent craft development which reflects the ingenuity of craftspeople. Brightly coloured telephone wires are used to great creative effect, decoratively covering objects such as bottles and walking sticks, or made into plates and baskets." (Todres, 1998 Guide to South African Arts, Culture and Heritage). The origins of telephone wire weaving is traced to Zulu night watchmen in urban areas who, to banish loneliness and boredom on night shifts, took to weaving coloured wire around their traditional sticks. Soon this technique was adapted to making izimbenge (beer pot covers) and the telephone wire bowls we have today. This craft now encompasses enormous creativity in diverse forms. 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 up 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.
The techniques and aesthetic of traditional grass basket-weaving have been beautifully adapted by contemporary Zulu artisans to this contemporary material. The baskets are as bright and colourful as the telephone wire used, and very sturdy. They are also completely washable