Travel virtually and learn about other places and cultures

If you like honey, fear not the bees. -African Proverb

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Botswana Basket Weaving Art Using the Mokolwane Palm Tree


The Hyphaene Petersiana tree is locally known in the African country of Botswana as the Mokolwane Palm. The Mokolwane Palm is a tree that produces the leaves used in the internationally popular Botswana traditional basket weaving art. The tree grows from Central Africa to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa in dry sandy areas, often away from rivers.




Hand basket weaving photo by Visite BotswanaThere are a series of small villages alongside the Westside of the Okavango Delta Botswana that create the woven art. The around 68,000 sq km or 17 million acre Okavango Delta marshlands and plains are home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large animals, such as lions and cheetahs, white and black rhinoceros, and the endangered African wild dog.


Women were walking greater distances every year, frequently a full day's journey, to find young Mokolwane Palms to harvest in order to create their woven art. The women of the villages, almost all of whom are basket weavers, were increasingly reluctant to undertake the journey due to the risks of traveling alone far from home. Young Mokolwane trees have thin blade-like leaves, which are sought-after by weavers for basketry. This is one of the problems affecting the scarcity of the young Mokolwane Palm. As the Mokolwane palm ages it grows up 25 meters or 80 feet tall, with its characteristic swollen in the middle trunk and feather-like leaves on the top of the tree. The Mokolwane also bear fruits, which are edible and can take from 10-20 years to yield.

Over the years, there have been major efforts to cultivate and establish farms for growing the Mokolwane Palm. Due to the scarcity of the tree, residents now buy the necessary raw materials for basket weaving from markets. The Palm leaves they purchase are already bleached and dyed and are ready to be worked. A small Mokolwane Palm basket can take a few days to create while large complicated baskets may take many months of painstaking work.

Overview of basket weaving materials, uses and techniques near Chobe National Park in Botswana.


Read more on African culture:
Tribal Beauty: Ndebele Distinct Cultural Identity

Share this page

Chic African Culture Featured Articles

Mental Discovery

The eye never forgets what the heart has seen - African Proverb

African Proverb

African Proverb
A tree without roots cannot survive the wind