These vibrant and decorative baskets are made from plastic coated copper wire and represent an interesting but fairly recent innovation in township art.
They are made by self-employed woman in Kwa-Mashu, outside Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Bona Africa's wire work is supplied chiefly by Zalele Mkize.
Although the baskets have evolved into bowl-shaped vessels, they were originally made as 'imbenge' or beer pot covers. Traditionally the beer pot covers were woven from grass or ilala palm and then decorated with beads.
Master weaver, Elliot Mkize, is cited as the person who made the transition from grass to plastic coated copper wire. However, the notion of weaving wire has much older origins. Wire work is evident on Zulu spears from about the late 19th century. The wire was acquired through trade with the Portugese. The use of more colourful wire apparently started about 40 years ago on 'knobkeries' or walking sticks and spears. The wire was collected in the scrapyards around Durban.