About the History & the Weaving Techniques:
Some say that the telephone wire basketry skill was innovated by master weaver Elliot Mkhize in the early 1970s. While grass basket weaving is a craft passed down through tradition in the Zulu culture, the specific telephone wire weaving is a more recent development. Nowadays, the groups of wire weavers are numerous and still growing, as wire baskets become more and more popular worldwide. Most weavers today are men and women who have had no previous weaving skills but learned the skill of basket weaving as a necessity due to unemployment.
The story goes, that the origins of telephone wire are traced to Zulu night watchmen in the Durban area who – to fight loneliness and boredom on night shifts – took to weaving colored telephone wire around their traditional sticks. Soon this technique was adapted to making the Zulu beer pot covers, and wire plates. Today, this craft has developed hugely in creativity and diversity of uses.
This coiling technique is unique to the greater Durban area. The designs that were used were inspired by the famous and exceptional Zulu beadwork patterns. Subsequently, the craft extended to include figures and text, usually depicting objects or animals in the crafters’ daily lives.
The “hard wire” plates are made differently. The wire is wound around the core wire in outward circles – from the inside out. This technique is much harder on the fingers and requires more skill and therefore the items are much more expensive.