Monday, April 22, 2019

Kiniga Abdul, making a donkey basket

Weaving Plam Strips

Woven Fish Traps

 Lamu Handwovens

Lamu Island and town are north of Mombasa along the northeastern edge of Kenya, in the Indian Ocean. We flew into Manda Island, and took a “matatu boat” across the water to Lamu Island. I think I counted 28 people, of which 8 were children, in our overloaded, exhaust chugging boat. This Swahili town is a blend of its Bantu and Arabic origins. The people are friendly and were very helpful, especially when we got lost in the dark maze of narrow streets in Lamu Town on our first night. We enjoyed two days of beaches, warm water, finding plover eggs, shopping and admiring the variety in the famous carved Lamu doors.

One of the first handwoven products we saw were baskets, filled with sand, on the backs of the donkeys that run up and down the narrow streets. It was difficult to get a good picture of these baskets, but we came across a young boy, Kiniga Abdul, making a donkey basket by weaving together strips of previously woven palm leaves with a running stitch made with a narrow strip of the palm leaf. The beginning knot made with his weaver was easily hidden within the turned plaited strip. He did not knot the end of his weaver.

His narrow strips were first woven by others, of leaves from Hyphaene sp. palm leaves. We saw both H. coriacea and H. compressa on the island. These strips were the most commonly used handwoven item we saw on Lamu. We found some young girls plaiting the long narrow strips that Kiniga was using. Our hotel room had floor mats made from these woven palm strips. Back in Nairobi, we come across these palm strips woven into seats and backs of furniture. Another type of handwoven item we saw were the tri-axle woven fishing traps. This tri-axle weaving is also found in traps and baskets made inland at Lake Victoria and in large baskets and 6x4x1 foot cases found along the Mombasa/Nairobi highway for transporting mangoes and other bulky items.

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