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Baskets from Maun to Santa Fe

Baskets from Maun to Santa Fe

Thitaku Kushonya and her booth at the market in Sante Fe, USA
Thitaku Kushonya and her booth at the market in Sante Fe, USA
DR RACHEL DEMOTTS

Flags of many countries fluttered in the summer wind of New Mexico’s high desert as nearly 150 artists unpacked their work. Just outside of the city of Santa Fe, the annual International Folk Art Market celebrated its tenth year this past July. Botswana was represented by Thitaku Kushonya and her handmade baskets, featuring traditional patterns such as the ‘Roof of the Rondavel’ and ‘Knees of the Tortoise.’

The Market is the brainchild of the International Museum of Folk Art as a way for artists from around the globe to meet, learn from each other and sell their work while sharing their cultures. The three day long event features artists from more than 60 countries who have successfully navigated a rigorous application process and lengthy travel times to arrive in Santa Fe. The Market is not just about sales, but also about cultural exchange – among the artists themselves, but also with those who visit the market seeking unique treasures and stories about where they are made.

While Botswana baskets have been represented before, this was the first time in several years that a Botswana artist participated in the market. For Kushonya weaving is about more than income; it is a chance to teach visitors something unique and essential about her home. “Art shows people from other countries something important about our way of life here so that they learn more about Botswana than just about elephants,” she said.

Kushonya proved adept at sharing stories and skills; she posed for endless photos and demonstrated her weaving technique to the curious. She worked with other weavers as well; the market included basketry from Namibia, South Africa, Panama, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, and France. “You can learn a lot from other countries,” she said.

Back in Maun, Kushonya’s shop provides a sales outlet for approximately 300 Motswana artists. She continues to teach tourists, who visit her and can spend half a day learning to weave their own palm basket – possibly the most unique souvenir of Botswana that one might take home.

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Okavango

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 14, Sept 2013)