Frafra Women Artisans making Bolga Baskets

Bolgatanga is the centre of handicrafts in the Upper East Region of Ghana: from basketry and pottery to leatherwork and decorative house painting, numerous crafts are represented in the region and its capital. It is also there, in and around Bolgatanga, that the bolga baskets, which are well-known far beyond the country's borders, are made. The large baskets with round bottoms are often decorated with bold stripes or geometric patterns, but can also be found in other shapes, patterns and colours – ranging from very colourful to natural baskets.

Bolga baskets are made by Frafra women in the villages around Bolgatanga. The Frafra (also called Gorse or Gurune) are an ethnic group in the northern part of Ghana and southern Burkina Faso, but live mostly in the north-eastern part of the Upper East Region in Ghana. Bolgatanga is not only the most important urban centre and trading town in the Upper East, but also the most important Frafra town. Although the Frafra are primarily engaged in agriculture, they are also known for their handicraft products such as baskets and hats made of straw.

The Frafra in the Bolgatanga district have passed down the technique of basket weaving for generations, using the local veta vera straw to make the baskets. For the bolga baskets, the veta vera straw, also called elephant grass, is collected from the tips of the grass stalks and then each piece is split vertically into two halves. Each half of the split straw is then tightly twisted through rolling it together to give it strength. Unless the veta vera straw is left in its natural colouring for a basket or pattern, it is dyed in boiling water, often in bright colours, before weaving. Once the material has been prepared, the basket weavers start with the bottom of the basket and build up the sides towards the top. The edges of the bolga baskets are generally flat or wrapped with straw to form a tubular rim. There are different variations for the handles of the baskets, all of which the weavers make with a robust wrapping technique around a grass core. Any leftover straw that sticks out of the basket is cut off in the last step. 

Frafra Women Artisans making bolga baskets

With the striped baskets and the u-shaped shopper, you will find a small selection of bolga baskets in our shop. These are woven by Frafra women artisans in the villages outside Bolgatanga (only occasionally men are also active in making baskets) and sold by them to the export company Geolicrafts. The Accra-based company buys and exports handicraft products from local producers and artisans, including baskets in various colours and shapes, masks and instruments, especially drums. Geolicrafts was founded by George Akologo, who himself comes from upper east Ghana.

Available at FOLKDAYS: Products by Frafra People x Geolicrafts.