Decor: Modern Basketry from Zimbabwe

Lupane Women’s Centre [Zimbabwe]


[Image credit: Baskets – Lupane Women’s Centre in Partnership with Kingston Project Africa]

Looking like they have been swirled with delicate watercolours, this gorgeous range of traditionally handcrafted baskets is the result of a partnership between the Lupane Women’s Centre in Zimbabwe and the Kingston University Design School in the UK, bringing a contemporary edge to traditional African design. The initiative entitled, Kingston Project Africa was created to facilitate the exchange and support of knowledge between both regions, and led by Professor Catherine McDermott utilises the expertise of academics, industry practitioners and curators across various projects and collaborations. 

This particular project saw the head of the design school, Simon Maidment sharing his expertise, running a series of workshops in Zimbabwe over a period of two weeks. The partnership saw the exploration of ways to make, transport and market the baskets, which are mainly sold to tourists visiting the country, but have also made their way into international retailers stores such as the Conran shop and Anthropologie. In recognition of the skill and creativity in production the baskets have been exhibited at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, as well as the London Design Festival and Design Indaba in Cape Town. Drawn from the disciplines of graphic to product design; students from the business and design schools of the University were also involved in the project, challenged to come up with effective solutions to help solve the problems faced by the women in producing and marketing the products.

The ideas generated by the students were presented to the women producing the baskets during the workshops. Located in Matabeleland a region lying two-hours outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, the Lupane Women’s Centre is a not-for-profit rural-based membership organisation that was founded in 1997 ‘for women by women’ in a bid to help members generate sustainable incomes through the provision of a range of skills, business and leadership training and support. The Lupane Women’s Centre currently has a 3200 strong membership, of which 2667 are women; the Centre also assists those who are marginalised, regardless of gender.

In addition to basketry, members are also involved in programmes including, gardening, candle and soap making, and beekeeping. A restaurant and conference facility for public hire helps generate an income to keep the Centre running. As a boost to the Centre the success of this project has meant continued funding from the British Council.  

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