Hadithi Crafts is an organization I was introduced to on a project I photographed for Fashion Revolution Kenya in partnership with East African Arts and the British Council.
Hadithi is an umbrella organization selling the crafts of 49 women's groups (around 1400 women) from the Kasigau region of SE Kenya between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. .The primary handcraft is hand woven sisal baskets - a tradition in Taita culture. Most groups meet every two weeks to weave baskets together, and continue weaving at home, or whilst doing other activities. .
They use natural dyes for dying sisal fibres which they then use for weaving baskets. The sources of their natural dyes include tree barks, which they boil in order to get the colour. “Our natural dyes come from tree barks, including the Mshiga tree, which gives a natural brown and the Mkungu tree gives a yellow. Soil gives a brown colour, charcoal a grey and clay a black.
ABOUT THE BASKETS
These unique baskets are made out of sisal which is grown either on farms belonging to the basket weavers, or else purchased from sisal estates in coast province. The leaves of the sisal plant are used to obtain a fibre which is rolled to twine, and then be woven to a basket.
The Taita ladies from the Kasigau Weaver’s Group dye the fibres themselves and then roll the twine on their lap. Making baskets is a very labour intensive art. The baskets come in a number of different colours and patterns, with each design entirely made up by these artistic Taita ladies!
ABOUT THE LADIES
Weaving baskets is a tradition in Taita culture. Hadithi baskets are made by Basket Weaver Women’s Groups in the rural villages between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. Most groups meet every two weeks to weave baskets together, and continue weaving in the meantime at home, on the bus or whilst walking to their neighbours. Hadithi started working with 350 weavers in 2013, and has expanded by 2019 to over 1000 weavers in the area. We visit each group every two months and purchase the baskets on the spot. These meetings are also a great opportunity to chat with the groups and discover some of their needs.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR BASKET
Sisal is famous for being an extremely strong and hardy material; it is resilient even to salt water! However, care should be taken when exposing your basket to full sunlight, since this will cause the colours to fade. Whilst a splash of water will not harm these baskets, drying your basket out if it is made wet is recommended. Sisal is a natural product, and if it remains damp for a long period it can go mouldy. If you use your basket as a plant pot therefore, lining it with a water proof bag is advisable.
Hadithi sales provide an income for people living in a vulnerable ecosystem. So by buying handicrafts, customers are helping to conserve a threatened forest full of wildlife, as well as helping the wonderful and kind people escape poverty in their daily lives in a dry area in south-eastern Kenya.
We believe the benefits created by sales are numerous.
They are reducing the reliance upon farming, which is itself unreliable due to scarcity of rain in this semi-arid area.
They provide an alternative to environmental destruction: an alternative to poaching vulnerable wildlife (elephant, zebra, giraffe…), or cutting down forest for charcoal, timber and farmland.
They offer a way to preserve beautiful traditions like weaving baskets and beading jewellery, by allowing them to evolve alongside modern market economic developments. More than this, it provides a learning platform for younger generations to continue some of the practices of their forebearers.
Most importantly, it gives people the ability to sustain their families. Most if not all the money that ladies receive goes straight to education, health and nutrition for the entire family. The ladies making handicrafts get the practice that leads to skills, satisfaction that leads to self-esteem and encouragement that leads to initiative. A feel of a future…
You should see the pride in these ladies eyes when they realise that they have life in their own hands, that they have their own way to create an income to the family.
Traditional Taita baskets
Traditional fine weave baskets are made with ultrathin twine they are a labor-intensive process from size dying rolling and weaving the natural traditional style is made only using natural dyes derive from tree Barks plants and soil
They come in natural traditional and bright mix
Kasigau sisal baskets
Sturdy thicker weave baskets for home Decour all designs are made up by the creative minds of the weavers you can select from the Indian Ocean collection and tsavo sunrise collection