A collection of portraits from weavers from Ukambani, Eastern Kenya. These portraits were taken on different assignments for Amsha Studio.
Kiondo basket is indigenous to the Kamba, Kikuyu and Taita communities of Kenya. Historically, women weaved baskets to serve in transporting or storing the harvest. Africa is an agricultural continent, and the basket first found its significance in support of this activity. But beyond agriculture, baskets were woven for other uses like storing food, shopping, or as gifts. These baskets were made of different kinds of indigenous fibrous plants, from which rope was produced to weave into baskets. Red ocre, a color available from plant bark and used to colour clothes as well, was one of the colouring options used by traditional weavers. These hand-woven bags are made from sisal which is a major cash crop in the county. The cultures of the Akamba, Taita and part of the Agikuyu appreciated this accessory for day to day farming functions while more elaborate kiondos were for weddings and other festivities.
Many women groups sit around fires or on verandas after a day’s chores to weave these delights while sharing stories and educating each other on social issues. This culture has curated a platform for sparked, perky conversations and economic empowerment. Unfortunately the hands that manage economics and trade relations have largely let these women folk down.
Upscaling to international souvenir markets guarantees women folk who are the backbone of this local craft live sustainable lives and enjoined into a life of dignity. By encouraging the creation of kiondos, a society can be kept consumed by a passionate craft, kept away from exploitation, economic insecurities, intense poverty and gain access to wider policy support programs.
The need to protect the traditional knowledge of our communities springs from the encompassed beliefs, knowledge, practices, innovations, arts, spirituality, and other forms of cultural experience and expression that belong to indigenous communities’ worldwide.