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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.

 

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 common parlance, we speak of Malagasy baskets in raffia, rabane, langara, penjy, Bouzaka, Aravola, without however making the difference between the technique and the vegetable fiber.

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

So the Madagascar basket making is made by villagers with high-quality traditional craftsmanship, allowing them to make quality lined bags and shopping bags made entirely by hand or with traditional machines.isser.

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 of zebu skins for artisanal manufacturing
handles and reinforcements in 
vegetable leather.

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

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

Raffia

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 looms of artisanal manufacture. Standard dimensions, minimum 53/55 cm wide and minimum 1.60 / 1.65 m long.

Langara

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

The penjy

The “penjy” or rush is a material derived from the abundant reed in the salty environment near the mangroves of the coast. In Madagascar, the name of the rush varies from one region to another (penjy, vondro). It is widely used because it is inexpensive, it requires no special care, it is abundant and very handy.

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 (to pronounce aravoul) or Sobika, the name "basket in aravola" has also remained to name these bouzaka fiber baskets.

Article published in the AMINA magazine
Magazine No. 473, September 2009

Interview

A young Madagascan made aware of the problems of his island, Baptistine tries in his own way to help his people by developing a sustainable and equitable economy.

Were you born in Fénérive-Est?

I come from a family of very courageous growers 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 stayed in Madagascar.

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

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 held a position in the oyster packaging department, in very difficult conditions for someone coming from a hot country! I then did many hours of cleaning in different places.

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

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

What do you like about this activity?

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

I have the feeling of participating in the economy of a country in difficulty, it's my happiness!

How do you distribute them?

This is the most difficult because this activity requires a lot of work. Luckily my husband supports me. I go to all the markets in the region, the fairs, I attend all the nocturnes.

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

How do you organize yourself?

My company was born in 2005. I knew Malagasy craftsmen and went to meet them. The idea was received with great enthusiasm.

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

Lately, they have been 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 pick up my order.

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