Date of this Version
Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
The Kenyan baskets commonly known as kiondo/kyondo (s)/ciondo (p) are made by women in different parts of Kenya mainly as utilitarian items for carrying goods around. The baskets are made using traditional/indigenous fibers that are readily available near where people live. The fibers may be from plant stems of shrubs, barks of trees, or banana fibers. The fibers are manually harvested, processed (spun), dyed, and woven into baskets. Dye stuffs are produced locally from natural sources such as mud (brown), leaves from specific plants (green), tree barks (red and brown), and charcoal (black), among other sources. Even though basketry is widespread in many parts of Kenya and the world at large, baskets produced over the years in eastern and central Kenya form the basis of this paper for various reasons, namely the untold stories of the weavers who are predominantly women. The eastern Kenyan communities consist of the Embu, Meru, and Kamba tribes, while the central Kenyan communities are predominantly Kikuyu. The art in weaving, fiber collection from the woods, fiber to yarn processing, and the actual basket- making comprise part of the untold stories. While some of the women weavers have formed loose “co-operatives” commonly known in Kenya as chamas, others use the “weaving groups” as avenues for social interactions and educational forums within their communities. The types and sizes of baskets vary but are predominantly utilitarian, save for a few used as decorative artifacts. Despite these differences, the basket weaving technique is similar in all Kenyan communities because of inter-trade interactions and socialization. In a nutshell, the weavers, materials used, the actual weaving process, and the interaction therein all form an interesting hidden story of participants that this paper has carefully analyzed and documented through actual interactions with the weavers.