Ethiopian Baskets

This year for Black History Month I wanted to represent our school community with our art project. I have a large Ethiopian student population at my school. I investigated what types of crafts and art they have in their culture. I found several examples of incredibly bright and beautiful baskets in photographs online. I had done basket weaving before with students during a Native American unit. So I tweaked my project to include more bright colors, geometric patterns, and raffia.

We used a Styrofoam bowl from the grocery store as our loom. The students cut nine slits into the styrofoam bowl and then tied on yarn. You have to have an odd number of slits so when students are weaving in and out they don’t need to skip any slits. Students would just tie on a new color and continue going around and around the bowl until they reached the top. When they reached the top then they would begin experimenting with raffia.

I told the students to try tying knots, making bows, creating bundles and tying those on, even incorporating some of the yarn and raffia into pom-poms.

Some things to keep in mind with this project is that Ethiopian baskets are extremely bright and colorful. Many of them incorporate both tan and bright colors. So I had pulled out my brightest colors of yarn along with some tan yarns for the students to create patterns with as they wove.

Also, most Ethiopian baskets have a geometric pattern inside. I had the students use colored Sharpie markers to draw a radial design in the bottom of the bowl. When we hung them up I would just staple the bottoms of the bowls to the bulletin boards.

during this project some of my students who are Ethiopian volunteered to share with the class some aspects of their culture in a written report. The students presented the written report to the class -highlighting the different types of food, holidays, and languages they have in Ethiopia. I learned a lot through this part of the project as I am not familiar with Ethiopian culture. The children taught me how the baskets are used in every day life in Ethiopia. They explained that the larger baskets with lids are used to hold bread and keep it warm, while the flatter baskets have different dishes of food set out.

What projects do you have lined up for February? Please share below in the comments.