February Artist Spotlight

Wolof Weavers of Senegal | In the Spotlight

Wolof WeaverWolof Basket Weaving
This coil style of basket weaving has been practiced in Senegal for generations, and Wolof girls learn weaving techniques from their mothers and aunts. Traditionally, Wolof women crafted baskets by binding njodax, a thick local grass, with thin strips of palm frond. Palm fronds were difficult to work with and very hard on the hands of the weavers, so about 20 years ago an anonymous creative party introduced large needles and strips of plastic purchased from a prayer mat factory in Dakar. This simple change in material dramatically reduced discomfort during the weaving process. Today’s Wolof baskets reflect this merger of traditional crafting techniques with contemporary materials.

Among the Wolof, basket weaving is specifically a woman’s craft. In many rural villages across Senegal, the men of the family must work in major cities or abroad, and send back money to the family. In some cases, this income alone is not enough to fully meet the family’s needs, so the women of the family supplement that income by weaving baskets.

White Wolof Prayer Mat BasketWolof women work basket weaving into their day between other household duties. International Fair Trade orders are welcome, as baskets otherwise have to be sold locally, where inconsistent profits are further reduced by the time and cost of transporting even just a few baskets to the local market.

The International Fair Trade Market
The Fair Trade market expands each rural woman’s reach into the world market far further than her feet could ever carry her. We seek thriving, long-term relationships with African artisans, as consistent orders increase stability in families and communities.

Wolof African Bread BasketThe Jan/Feb 2010 issue of ELLE Decor featured Wolof Baskets in a highly coveted What’s Hot layout. There’s a beautiful image of two Wolof baskets nestled in the pages of every magazine distributed, a gracious gift to the growing community of Wolof weavers.

Community Impact
Across Africa, artisan cooperatives provide a safety net for individual crafters. By working together, artisans can produce larger orders for export, better negotiate and stabilize pricing and apply proceeds generated to projects that benefit members.

Our partner works in cooperation with the Cooperative “And Suxali Sunu Gokh.” In Wolof, the name means work together to make our villages flourish. The cooperative organizes orders for craftspeople in 26 rural Senegalese villages, facilitates fulfillment and artisan payment and helps apply a portion of profits to education, reforestation and community betterment projects that benefit all member villages.

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