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What Are Bolga Baskets? All You Need to Know

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What Are Bolga Baskets? All You Need to Know

Bolga baskets, or "Ghana Baskets," are handwoven baskets from the village of Bolgatanga (also known as Bolga) in Northern Ghana.

The baskets are made from materials like elephant grass (also known as veta vera grass), straw, bamboo, and leather, which are sturdy and sustainable. 

The grass is gathered, dried, and then dyed in vibrant colors like brown, red, orange, green, black, etc. The crafting process is done by women and men in the village of Bolgatanga and is often passed down from generation to generation.

The best part about handwoven Bolga baskets is that they’re not just pretty—they’re practical, too! Their sturdy construction and size make them great for hauling groceries or transporting items. They're also versatile; you can use them as decor, beach bags, or even as cute storage bins.

They come in a variety of shapes, including planter baskets, straw bags, market baskets, U shoppers, and round baskets with handles, available in many vibrant colors.

How Bolga baskets are made

The process of making a Bolga basket is a true art form. It involves several steps, each of which adds to the beauty and durability of the finished product.

The stages include: 

Splitting the straws

The first step in making a Bolga Basket is preparing the elephant grass. The weavers buy a bundle of dried grass and begin splitting the straws by hand, ensuring that each straw is uniform in width. The straws are then twisted on the weaver’s lap to achieve a wavy texture, which helps prevent breakage during weaving.

Dyeing the straws

In order to achieve vibrant colors and patterns, the weavers use natural dyes derived from fruits, leaves, bark, and other plant materials. These materials are boiled in water until the desired color is achieved, and then the dyed straws are removed and allowed to dry.

Weaving the basket

Weaving is the most demanding part of the process, requiring patience and skill. The artisans start by weaving the base of the basket and gradually build up to the top. The colors and patterns chosen during the dyeing process give each basket its unique appeal.

I was in awe watching the weavers at work. With deft hands and years of experience, they coil and stitch the straw together using a continuous spiral pattern to form sturdy baskets.

It's an extremely labor-intensive and painstaking process that can take several days for a single basket depending on the size and complexity of the design. Yet the weavers maintain the traditions passed down through generations with incredible skill and artistry.

What are these baskets made of?

A Ghanian woman weaving a basket with elephant grass
Rufina store setup of ecofriendly products 

Our handmade Bolga Baskets are made from straw or reed gathered from Veta Vera, also known as elephant grass. This grass grows abundantly in the tropical regions of Ghana and is prized for its strength and flexibility, which makes it ideal for weaving.

To achieve those gorgeous colors, the weavers dye the straw in different shades of colors or one color, depending on the design they are going for.

The handles of the baskets are often reinforced with leather, providing extra durability and a comfortable grip.

Where do Bolga baskets come from?

Bolga Baskets come from Bolgatanga, a town in northern Ghana, western Africa. The tradition of basket weaving in this region developed as a way to provide an income during the farming off-season.

These baskets now have a significant role in boosting the local economy. As reported by Aisha Salaudeen of CNN, the country’s non-traditional export sector, which includes basket weaving, contributes about 20% to Ghana’s export trade

In 2017, Ghana exported roughly $800,000 worth of baskets to international markets, highlighting the growing demand and economic impact of these beautiful handmade products. I like how these baskets are unique in style, shape, and quality, and are easily recognizable compared to similar baskets from other parts of the world.

Meet our talented weavers

A sturdy Rufina Designs Bolga shopping basket
Some of our talented weavers 

A common question I often get is whether these baskets are made only by women.

While women predominantly weave the baskets, men often weave and handle the leatherwork for the handles. 

Basket weaving is a vital craft in many African countries, especially for women who rely on the land for their livelihood. The income from weaving allows them to support their families, send their children to school, and pay for healthcare.

Weaving is a communal activity, often done in groups, fostering a supportive community environment. This tradition has been passed down through generations, preserving the cultural heritage of the region.

How you can care for your Bolga basket

Ghana Bolga baskets are durable and long-lasting, but they require proper care to maintain their beauty and shape:

  • To remove dust, dampen a rag with water and gently wipe the basket.

  • To reshape the basket, dampen the rag with water, sprinkle it on the basket, and shape it with your hands.

  • Do not expose the basket to excessive moisture, as the natural materials can become misshapen or cracked if saturated.

  • Store the basket away from direct sunlight, as prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause the materials to deteriorate over time.

Where to find Bolga baskets

If you want authentic and eco-friendly Ghana baskets from Africa, visit our store at Rufina Designs, where we offer a variety of traditional African craft item baskets for shopping, beach trips, picnics, and more. 

We have a wide selection, including round Bolga baskets and other shapes and sizes, all ethically sourced from Ghana.

Not only are you getting a unique handmade piece, but you're also supporting the centuries-old tradition of Ghanaian weaving and the livelihoods of the weavers. Just be prepared - it will be hard to choose just one basket from the incredible selection!

How to use our Rufina Designs baskets from Africa

Why Eco-Friendly Gifts are Important

Our handwoven Bolga baskets are not only stunning works of art but also incredibly versatile and functional.

Here are some creative ways you can incorporate these baskets into your daily life:

  1. Shopping Tote: Ditch the plastic bags and use your Ghana basket as a chic, eco-friendly shopping tote.

  2. Storage and organization: The sturdy construction of Bolga baskets makes them perfect for storing and organizing various items around your home. Use larger floor baskets as catchalls for toys, craft supplies, or household miscellany, or arrange smaller baskets on shelves for a decorative touch.

  3. Plant pot holder: Line a basket with plastic and use it to hold a potted plant - the colorful designs will make your greenery really pop!

  4.  Decorate your walls with colorful handmade baskets: Hang a large Bolga basket on the wall as a striking focal point, adding texture and dimension to your space. Alternatively, create a gallery-style arrangement by mixing and matching a few smaller baskets.

  5. Coffee table decor: Place a basket on its side on the coffee table and fill it with books, candles, or other decorative items. The low profile works great as a serving tray or catchall.

  6. Picnic and outdoor use: Don't hesitate to put these durable baskets to work! They're the perfect carryalls for transporting dishes, cutlery, and picnic supplies to the park or beach.

For more ideas on how to use our African baskets, visit our page for inspiration and to explore specific products that can be particularly useful in your home. 

You'll find a wide range of suggestions and creative uses to make the most of these versatile baskets.

Check out our Ghana Bolga Baskets