There is a lot of talk about sustainability and ethical shopping these days, and for good reason. The way we consume affects not only the environment but also the people who make the products we buy. This is why supporting African artisans by shopping for handcrafted items is such a great idea. Not only are you getting a one-of-a-kind product, but you are also helping to preserve traditional craftsmanship. In this article, we will showcase five of the best African handcrafted products that will make you proud to be an ethical shopper!
1. African Wall Baskets - The oldest known baskets were discovered in Faiyum in upper Egypt and have been carbon dated to between 10,000 and 12,000 years old, earlier than any established dates for archaeological evidence of pottery vessels, which were too heavy and fragile to suit far-ranging hunter-gatherers.
Baskets from Africa are often very intricately woven. They are made from a variety of materials, including grasses, reeds, and palm leaves. African baskets are often used for carrying things or for storage. Wall baskets can either be sewn together or plaited together. The type of basket will depend on the materials available and the expertise of the maker. The basket’s design is largely dependent on the materials that are being used to make it but there are some common styles that originate from specific regions such as those found in eastern Madagascar.
The most famous baskets identified and even in our shop are the Tonga baskets, the Rwanda baskets, and the Makenge baskets. Tonga baskets come from the Southern province of Zambia, Makenge baskets from Upper Zambezi River region of Zambia. and of course, the Rwanda baskets from Rwanda.
2. African fabric – Here, we will mention the mist famous Kuba cloth. The Kuba cloth is a handloomed, cotton fabric from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is known to be one of the finest and most expensive textiles in the world. But how did this cloth originate?
It all started in 15th century when some women from an ethnic group called Kuba came up with this concept. They were unhappy about the traditional clothing which was not durable and comfortable. So they decided to come up with their own textile that would last longer and provide comfort to them as well as their children. These women used natural fiber - cotton, nearby trees and riverbeds for dyes and stones for needles to come up with this unique textile called Kuba cloth.
This tradition is being followed till date by these women who are using the same materials but have upgraded their technique with help from new technology like mobile phones, spinning wheels etc. A single person can make one of these cloths in a day or two depending on its size. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Kuba people have been using cotton to make clothes for centuries. The long and rich tradition of cloth making has been passed on from one generation to another, with an emphasis on safety and secrecy. An amazing microscope into the past that shows how the intelligence that existed were making clothes way before the ones we wear now!
3. African furniture carvings - African carvings are usually made from wood or stone. They can be small or large, and they often depict animals or scenes from nature. African carvings are popular souvenirs and gifts. An example is the Cameroon Bamileke stool. The Bamileke stools of Cameroon are among the most popular African handicrafts. These stools are made by the Bamileke people, who are a part of the larger Fula ethnic group. They are made from wood and are often ornately carved, and used as seats or as decorative pieces.
The Bamileke stools are popular not only for their beauty but also for their symbolism. The craftsmen and women from Cameroon use these stools as a symbol of their social status. In fact, the more elaborate the carving on a Bamileke stool, the higher the social status of the owner. They also often used them in traditional ceremonies. For example, they may be used as seats for chiefs or other dignitaries during important events. If you're looking for a unique African handicraft, the Bamileke stool is a great option. These beautiful stools are not only aesthetically pleasing but also have deep meaning for the Bamileke people.
The first pottery was made during the Neolithic period, which is approximately 10,000 years ago. The original African pottery was created by early people living in the Sahara desert, but over time the craft spread to different parts of Africa and many different types of African pottery developed.
Other tribal decorative pieces like the Baule beaded mask or the Namji dolls from Cameroon speak of a richer history and understanding of human life and passages more than we do in this age. Masks from Africa are usually very colorful and intricate. They are made from a variety of materials, including wood, cloth, and feathers. Often worn during ceremonies or celebrations, the carved wooden masks are a traditional African art form. They are usually made from a single piece of wood, like the Makenge tree of life, is both functional and decorative.
Another is the West African Senufo stool. These stools are handcrafted from a single piece of wood. They are sturdy and comfortable, making them perfect for use as a stool or chair. Senufo stools are often decorated with carved designs, making them a beautiful addition to any home.
African handicrafts are some of the most beautiful and unique in the world. We hope that our list of the top 3 African handicrafts has given you a better understanding of the intricate and varied crafts that come from this continent, also available at our shop! Whether you're looking for a gift for someone special or a piece to add to your own collection, African handicrafts are sure to impress.