The colorful, traditional Bolga baskets are woven in the villages around Bolgatanga in Northern Ghana. Most families have to involve in artistic work and handicraft to supplement their incomes, and the basket weaving traditions have been passed on from mother to daughter for generations.
The straws they make the baskets from, called kinkahe, is produced locally during the rainy season. During the dry season, the straws are transported to the north from Kumasi.
To prepare the material, the straw is split once, then the two parts are twisted tightly together by a technique called mia. This is done to strengthen the material, before the weaving starts.
In the old days the straws were colored using dyes which were made from the bark of the mahogany trees. Nowadays most weavers use the modern dyes in a range of different colors. The dyes are imported from Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, and are available at Bolga market. The twisted straws are bundled, and then dyed in boiling water.
The weaving process starts at the base and works up to the rim. Once the straws are prepared, it takes 2 to 3 days to weave and finish a medium sized basket, and 3 to 6 days for the large ones. The time it takes to make a basket will off course depend on how complex the pattern is to weave.
In this video you can see a woman weaving the base of the basket:
The handles of the basket may differ, but they are all made the same way: you wrap the straw tightly around a grass core. The handles of the baskets are also sometimes wrapped with goat leather.
Here is a video of how the handle of the basket is made:
After the basket is finished, the weaver trims out remaining bits of straw sticking out, and the basket is ready to be sold.