New basket weaving from Swaziland


These vibrant and striking baskets are the handiwork of weavers in rural Swaziland.  Pioneering company Gone Rural are dedicated to creating sustainable employment for over 750 female home-based workers.  Under the directorship of Philippa Thorne, Gone Rural are redefining the traditional Swazi art of grass weaving and plaiting.   Bales of local Lutindzi grass are delivered to the women to hand weave into colourful baskets and home accessories, empowering them with a sustainable, self-employed income.  The zig-zag designs pictured are clearly influenced by Thorne's period working for Missoni, after graduating from London's Central St Martins School of Art.

I discovered these wonderful pieces at Habitat's Platform Gallery, where the current Interwoven exhibition juxtaposes Thorne's Gone Rural work with that of four other recent St Martins graduates: Jane Harper, Coralie Bonnet, Lucie Libotte and Nadia‐Anne Ricketts.  The exhibition endeavours to illustrate that the ancient art of weaving has embraced new environments, new technologies and innovative creative practices.


After spending days with weaver Siphiwe Mngometulu and her family in rural Swaziland, Thorne and her Gone Rural team developed a collection of unique, conceptual pieces entitled 'Biography Baskets'.  Each basket reveals moving truths about 3 women from Siphiwe's family.  Traditional hand craft techniques have at the same time been revived and reinterpreted by the women who span 3 generations.  Elements such as animal bone, discarded jerry cans, scraps of fabric and clay beads are interwoven with grasses and other plant fibres to produce the monumental pieces.


Interwoven is at the Habitat Platform Gallery, Kings Road, London until 28th April.

Gone Rural's baskets are available from Shake the Dust.