The Bolgatanga region of Ghana produces lots of beautiful and handcrafted baskets. If you’d like to purchase an authentic basket, there are several key things that you should look out for.
Genuine Bolga baskets are always round. There are other baskets made in Bolgatanga, which are more rectangular in shape and which are not referred to as Bolga. Genuine Bolgas will be made from natural, undyed grass from the round base — colour is only introduced higher up — and they have a single handle. New baskets will also come with a rustic hang-tag label that is attached in Africa before shipping.
Higher up on the basket, the colours and patterns come into their own and it is these that make each Bolga basket unique. There are simply countless combinations. A good Bolga retailer should be able to show you lots of high-quality photographs that make it easy to see the detail; if the photos are unclear, it will be harder to spot poor quality, so don’t be afraid to ask for more images.
Size varies greatly. An average-sized Bolga is around 40 cm (15 inches) in diameter, and about 20 cm (8 inches) high to the brim before the handle, which will add approximately another 15 cm (6 inches). Ask the seller for precise measurements, and don’t take descriptive words such as “big” or “giant” as a clear enough guide as they are simply too subjective. Height, diameter, circumference and handle height should all be made available to you before your purchase.
It is important to remember that handmade products will always be unique and will sometimes have flaws, often due to unavoidable marks in the raw materials.
Fairtrade products often cost more because the manufacturer is paid more for their work: a fair price. Fairtrade also means there will have been no child-labour involved. If Fairtrade is important to you, search for certified retailers.
Many online companies such as Injabulo http://www.injabulo.com/acatalog/Bolga-Baskets-1.html abide by the practices set out by the Fairtrade Foundation. You can read more about Fairtrade here.
These baskets make great gifts and are a lovely way for you to own a piece of traditional African craft. They’re also so strong that they last for years. So, the toughest question will be how to pick only one!