The most famous of all the craft products of Botswana is the basket. As an intergral part of the Botswana agricultural culture, baskets have been made and used traditionally for thousands of years.
Closed baskets with lids are used for storing grain, seeds, and sometimes sorghum beer. Large, open bowl shaped baskets are used by the women for carrying items on their heads and for winnowing grain after it has been threshed. Smaller, plate shaped baskets are used for winnowing grain after it has been pounded.
The main producers of baskets are the women of the Bayei and Hambukushu tribes in northwestern Botswana.
Although baskets are still very much a common sight in rural Botswana, more and more are being produced today for the commercial market.
Expansion and diversity of weaving techniques, designs and the use of colour are encouraged through upgrading courses, annual competitions and exhibitions.
Today, the baskets of Botswana are equal to the finest of art forms found in the world.
The main raw material utilized to produce Botswana baskets is the fibre of the "vegetable ivory" palm tree (Hyphaene petersiana ), called Mokola in Botswana.
To create intricate designs, the natural cream-coloured palm fibre is dyed shades of brown with the roots or bark of the Motlhakola (Euclea divinorun ) and Motsentsila (Berchemia discolor ) trees.
More recently, the leaves of the Indigofers sp. shrub are being used to produce a mauve colour and the husks of sorghum, having a fungus, will create a lovely pink shade.
Botswana baskets are woven by using the coil method. Either a thin bundle of palm fibre, grass, or a single piece of vine is used for the interior of the coil.
To make a basket, a small hole is pierced into the previously woven row with an awl, then a strip of palm is inserted into the hole and wrapped around the core. Designs are created by weaving strips of dyed palm into the appropriate places.
Each basket takes about four to six weeks to complete, working every day.
Originally most of Botswana's baskets were without designs, being all cream coloured, the natural colour of the palm fibre.
Gradually more and more designs have been woven for identification purposes and beautification.
Pictured here are just four of the more famous designs. Many other traditional designs - below - are woven into the baskets of Botswana, guaranteeing the collector a wide selection.
In addition, unique, one-of-a-kind designs are being created by true artists, merging the craft of basketry with the world of abstract art.