Making baskets from Madagascar

Madagascar is the 4th largest island in the world (587,040 km2) and has enormous natural resources. The best known are natural plant fibers such as raffia, sisal, penjy and bouzaka ...

Tongasoa Artisanal, manufacturer and wholesaler in baskets from Madagascar, promotes Malagasy craftsmanship throughout the manufacturing process of its products.

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The manufacture of baskets from Madagascar is artisanal

She uses techniques that respect nature. For example, to tan leather, chlorine is replaced by water and bark so as not to pollute rivers.

Rabane and langara are also techniques used for weaving. In everyday language, we speak of Madagascan baskets in raffia, rabane, langara, penjy, Bouzaka, Aravola, without however making the difference between technique and vegetable fiber.

Raffia, penjy and Bouzaka are natural fibers and rabane and langara are weaving techniques.

So the Madagascar basket making is carried out by villagers endowed with a traditional craftsmanship of quality, allowing them to make quality lined bags and tote bags completely made by hand or with traditional machines for tisser.

Thus, these techniques and these natural fibers respect the environment and participate in the development ofu Fair Trade. The Tongasoa Artisanal company is the vector of this quality of manufacture of baskets from Madagascar.

Tanning zebu skins for artisanal production
handles and reinforcements in 
vegetable leather.

But vegetable leather, what is it… in fact vegetable leather is simply… leather. What changes and allows it to bear the name of vegetable leather is the tanning process. For conventional leather, highly polluting products, such as heavy metals, and more particularly chromium are used during tanning, and all these products are discharged into rivers near the tanneries, causing serious pollution of water and waste. soils, vegetable leather is tanned with active ... vegetable products? Our craftsmen use wood (mimosa shavings), in their tanning processes, the skins are soaked in a large tank filled with water and the bark is placed between each skin during the soaking which can last between 3 to 8 weeks. This is the process that uses the fewest chemicals.

Plant fibers & weaving techniques used in the manufacture of baskets from Madagascar


a plant fiber that comes from the leaves of a palm tree, called a raffia palm. Raffia is a completely ecological product. Indeed, its extraction allows to maintain and regenerate the forests in Raffia while providing an income to the local populations. The fiber is obtained from the leaf of the raffia palm tree through various techniques and manual operations. It can be used in its natural state or be tinted.

The rabane

it is a weaving made from raffia fiber, they are made one by one on handcrafted looms. Standard dimensions, minimum 53/55 cms wide and 1.60 / 1.65 m long minimum.


it is also a weaving made from raffia fiber. It is found in rolls 60, 90 or 120 cm wide and 50 meters long. There are three qualities: Bourrue, Fine, Double fine.

The penjy

The "penjy" or the rush is a material derived from the reed abundant in salty environment near the mangroves of the coast. In Madagascar, the name of rush varies from one region to another (penjy, vondro). It is widely used because it is inexpensive, does not require any special care, it is plentiful and very easy to handle.

The bouzaka

The "bouzaka" is a very hard and resistant grass used mainly in the basketry, for the baskets it is braided according to a process called Aravola (pronounced aravoul) or Sobika, the name "basket in aravola" has also remained to name these bouzaka fiber baskets.

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Article published in the AMINA magazine
Magazine n ° 473, September 2009


Young Malagasy sensitized by the problems of her island, Baptistine tries in her way to help her family by developing a sustainable and equitable economy.

Were you born in Fénérive-Est?

I come from a very courageous family of farmers whom I have seen working from morning to night. I stayed with them until I was 25.

I have been living in France for almost ten years. I am married and two children have been born, but my family is far from me, they have remained in Madagascar.

I very often have nostalgia, fortunately my company obliges me to go twice a year to the island, and in this way I take the opportunity to spend long moments with mine.

How did you come up with the idea of importing crafts?

In recent years, I have worked a lot and have never shied away from the task. I worked in the oyster packaging department, in very difficult conditions for a person coming from a hot country! I then did many hours of cleaning in different places.

Then one day, with nostalgia helping, I wanted to highlight Malagasy craftsmanship. Why not import the know-how of my country in order to show it to the French, and at the same time make local artisans work.

I studied this project, I spoke about it to my husband who validated my ambitions.

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What do you like about this activity?

Thanks to my small business, I give work to Malagasy artisans. Since the birth of my activity, their economy has grown and orders are more and more important. I am completely open to their proposals for new products.

I have the feeling to participate in the economy of a country in difficulty, it is my happiness!

How do you distribute them?

This is the most difficult because this activity requires a lot of work. Fortunately my husband supports me. I do all the markets in the region, the shows, I attend all the nocturnes.

I am also a wholesaler in Madagascan baskets. And I broadcast throughout France and abroad.

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How do you organize yourself?

My company was founded in 2005. I knew Malagasy artisans and went to meet them. The idea was greeted with great enthusiasm.

I thought and designed the models and chose the fiber. Their creations are made of raffia, "bouk" fibers, coconut, burlap. Some are hand painted. Craftsmen work with great passion and taste, they master the plant fibers with dexterity.

Recently, they are recycling metal to make small cars, products that the French are fond of because they are very original.

Twice a year, I go to my island to restock. In November, I order quantities and models, and in February I come to pick up my order.

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