In time-honored tradition, new brides in Africa's Upper Zambesi River region receive the beautiful yet practical gift you hold in your hands--a wedding basket.
Presented to the bride by her mother or in-laws, in the years to come she herself will pass the basket to her own newly-married daughter. In fact, the heirloom is so durable that the same basket can be used in the family for over 100 years!
The beauty and durability of wedding baskets is no accident. Only the most skilled craftswomen are able to weave these baskets, each of which takes on to two months to create. Taking the roots of the Makenge bush and boiling them until soft, they color the fiber with natural plant dyes. Then they weave the basket into unique, one-of-a-kind patterns conveying messages of beauty, marriage and family.
The wedding basket is a woman's most useful and valuable possession, and she decorates it with pride to reflect her own taste and tradition. In everyday life she may choose to use it practically, to winnow grain and to collect and store harvested roots or rice, or to beautify her home by hanging it on a wall.
Wedding baskets do indeed make wonderful wall art or table-top displays. Since each basket is unique with slight variation in size and shape--not to mention diverse colors and patters--you'll be tempted to start a family tradition of your own.