Look around at Shinde, which sits on a palm island in the Okavango Delta. Do you see the artisans’ work around you in your tent or on shelves in the library area?
Those beautiful baskets have been woven by housekeepers KP Basimane and Ester Saokwa, among other staff members. They use leaves from palm trees and sometimes roots of the aloe vera, dye them some of them using plant extracts, and, after wetting the strands to keep them malleable, weave them with a wire tool. The designs have names such as Tears of the Giraffe, Knees of the Tortoise, Running Ostrich and Back of the Python.
KP learned to weave at nine years old in her village of Sankuyo. Her mother taught her, just as her grandmother taught her mother. Ester learned from her mother at 12 in Shorobe.
They weave often in “the siesta time” in the afternoon. It gives them a feeling of peacefulness, they said. A translator listens to them and relays to me their message. “They don't want this culture to die. Their parents were making the baskets. They grew up making baskets, and they still want to pass it on to their grandchildren.”
Ester speaks and the translator says, “She is very happy doing it. She is doing it out of the love.” It shows.
- Maria Henson was a guest at Shinde in June 2016 and spent a year on sabbatical in Botswana. She displays Botswana baskets in her house.