national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, April 3, 2011


(Zibusele Candy Range)

Telephone wire basketry is a commonly practiced craft in the region of KwaZulu-Natal. Wire weavers produce a variety of wire ware and jewellery in an attempt to generate an income for themselves. The abundance of wire basketry practice compelled the African Art Centre’s Development team to find innovative ways to weave and design new wire baskets, bowls and jewellery which would be appealing and new to the market.

Initial research by the Development team entailed a collective effort of systematically sourcing new original designs, shapes and weaving techniques, consulting with decorators and designers and the marketplace so as to provide up to date guidance and direction on fashionable colour choices, shapes and innovative designs to the participants. In addition, a contemporary colour palette was created to assist crafters to produce work which is in line with modern decorative trends. Copper wire was introduced as a new element and successfully combined with telephone wire. The combination of the wire, retained the exclusive appearance of the baskets but elevated the latest wire ware to a new level.

This project was facilitated by Benzani Mkhize, master weaver at KwaZibusele rural community situated in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal. A total of 23 crafters participated in the training workshop which included individuals who had partial weaving experience as well as beginner weavers. First time weavers were allowed time to experiment with the medium by weaving small basic shapes. The few readily in possession of weaving skills were given large baskets and intricate shapes to weave.

During the early days of the workshop, participants found the combination of weaving with telephone wire and copper wire and combining the wire with beads, seeds and bugle beads slightly tricky; however, as a result of the facilitators’ knowledge and understanding of the weaving methods, she was able to provide constant expert advice and assistance.

The majority of the group managed to complete the telephone wire bowls, baskets and vases incorporating glass beads by the second week. Colour coding methods and the combination of beads and copper enhanced the innovative designs utilised on the baskets. The resultant products were a true manifestation of the creative development process which preceded the training workshop. The introduction of a colour wheel assisted the participants in creating a harmonised new product range.

During the last few days of the workshop, the Zibusele group were given training in copper, telephone wire beaded jewellery making. This module was integrated to give weavers an opportunity to produce small items which would be cost effective in the market. Memory wire enabled the group to produce a variety of bangles, earrings, pendants; once again the group utilized selected telephone wire colours. A limited range of beaded bangles, bracelets, pendants, necklaces and earrings were manufactured during the workshop.

When the workshop was concluded, the weavers were awarded certificates of successful completion. The completed baskets, bowls and vases in assorted sizes depicted great understanding of wire basketry weaving methods, innovative design and quality control. Moreover, the new woven works included exclusive range of containers which could not be replicated as they were sold with their internal moulds.

The Zibusele Wire products are available at the African Art Centre which has once again contributed to the development, promotion and appreciation of the works of indigenous artists and crafts people through this project. The African Art Centre is situated at 94 Florida Road, Morningside. More information from the Director, Sharon Crampton, on 031 312 3805 or email or visit