Tutsi Basket

This Tutsi basket, though miniature in scale, displays a remarkable degree of precision and a painstakingly fine weave.

African Baskets

Tribe: Tutsi (Mutudzi)

Origin: Rwanda/Burundi

Approx Age: Mid-20th Century

Materials: Sisal leaf fibres

Dimensions cm: 14 x 9

Ref. Number: 1611b


This exquisite lidded basket is the work of a Tutsi weaver from Rwanda. Basket weaving remains one of the most widespread art forms among the ethnic groups of Rwanda and Burundi. The long-standing role of baskets and the basketry tradition in the lives of these people has resulted in an art form that serves both a utilitarian function and aesthetic beauty. These baskets are known as “Agaseki, and plural, Ibiseke”.

Provenance: Ex-Scottish private collection.

AHDRC N˚ ao-0165357-001

Exhibited: Tribal Art London Exhibition 2022


When the Tutsi were the ruling group in Rwanda, the privileged position of Tutsi women allowed them the leisure time necessary to perfect their skill at weaving these ultra-fine and intricately patterned containers, few of which exceeded five or six inches in height. The minority Tutsi people, who number 10–15 per cent of Rwanda’s population, lost their privileged status after a revolution by the majority Hutu people. As a result, the rich basketry tradition is slowly dying out and increasingly being replaced by plastics. Now, only older women carry on the practice of weaving baskets in the traditional manner. Workshops have also emerged throughout Rwanda that produces baskets and other crafts on a much larger scale. 

The traditional colours of Tutsi basketry were black, red, and the natural pale gold of the grass; black and red were used for patterns. Black colouring was derived from boiling banana flowers, the black sap of which was used as a dye. The red dye was similarly derived from boiling the root and seeds of the urukamgi plant. By the 1930s, however, imported dyes expanded the palette to include colours like green, orange, and mauve.

The photo was taken from www.britannica.com

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