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A stitch in time

CREATIVE: Shorobe baskets
  • Shorobe women weave baskets for a living

A stitch in time saves nine, they say, but at the Shorobe Baskets Cooperative curio shop, the ancient technique and mastery of African basket weaving has saved the lives of 43 unemployed women who have come together to make ends meet through stitching together palm tree leaves.

Located in Shorobe on the periphery of the Okavango Delta, just 30km from Maun, the curio shop is well decorated with exquisite hand-woven baskets, skillfully crafted by local women.

They create and sell baskets of different patterns, colours and shapes, largely to tourists who often use the Maun-Khwai road on their way to the nearby Moremi Game Reserve and the Mababe depression.

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A stitch in time

According to one of the weavers, Kenewe Odumeleng, the strategic location of the shop makes them more visible to potential customers and has helped their members make a living through ecotourism for many years.

“I started weaving baskets when I was still a young girl, maybe around 10 years of age, but it was only in recent years that I started making good money and I am planning to build a bigger house for my family as I am able to buy bags of cement from the profits,” explained 58-year-old Odumeleng.

For these women, weaving has become a crucial source of economic empowerment as well as an important part of their cultural heritage.

“Weaving baskets is a way of life in Shorobe, that’s what women mostly do,” she says with a smile, her hand gracefully making another weave, without missing a stitch!

Most of these women, just like Odumeleng, have not gone through formal education but have learnt the craft from their mothers and grandmothers from a young age.

Oraetswe Ngandwe, the youngest team member, started weaving from the age of 12 and has never looked back.

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A stitch in time
WOMAN AT WORK: Oraetswe Ngandwe

“It is mostly tourists who buy from us. But yes, there are some locals who are giving us good business too,” Ngandwe adds.

Profits earned from baskets have seen these women survive through hard times as every penny they get, they make sure they feed their families, send their children to school and improve their homesteads, explains the organizations Chairperson, Boipuso Nyoke.

“This store is for all members to use free of charge. No rent is required from them, all they have to do is produce good quality products and offer good service to customers,” Nyokwe adds as she gives an overview of the admirable community project that is globally reputed for its high quality baskets.

Known all over the world for their perfection, these baskets that form part of the pride of Ngamiland District are known for their tight shapes, beautiful patterns and well hidden knots.

Founded in 1995, Shorobe Basket Cooperative has a membership of 43 women and a few men who have recently started joining, making hand crafts and specialising in wooden drums, carving, and making beaded neck-pieces and bracelets.

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Seeing their efforts, a non-governmental organization, Impact Fund, has come in to help and guide this community to better their tourism and marketing skills so that they can reap better from their crafts.

Meanwhile Sankoyo tribal leader, Kgosi Gothayang Moalosi, who is also a local businessman has- through his newly founded company, Timex and Sons, donated a fence to secure the cooperatives building and property.

The fence worth over 25 000 pula was completed and handed over last week, thus giving the place a fresher and appealing view.

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