Earlier this year, Rob and Lizanne ventured off to Malawi to spend some time with our weaving communities. Not being able to connect with them in person for the past few years made this an extremely well needed trip! We sat down with Lizanne to get the full scope of where our products come from and insight into the people creating them.
Malawi through the eyes of one of Ashanti’s own – Lizanne:
“I was so excited about this trip, it was my first time leaving South Africa and I couldn’t wait to see what Malawi had in store! We travelled to Johannesburg from Cape Town and then 4 hours later we were in Malawi. The first thing I noticed was the heat, for lack of better word, it was f*cking hot!” – Lizanne
Village life and the recipe to happiness:
While visiting the different villages, it quickly dawns on me how people have nothing but time. They spend their days working on their land, mainly as subsistence farmers. People in the villages wake up with the sunrise, spend some time together in the morning as a family and then go out and tend to their crops. By 9am/10am when the heat gets too much to bear, people leave their crops and retreat to shady areas under lush palm trees. A calm space for creativity where villagers sit to weave, smoke and chat until temperatures drop. Thereafter it’s family time again, followed by dinner and when the sun goes down it’s time to rest. There is a beautiful contentment, happiness and peace in the serenity of village life.
It’s quite well-known that the people of Malawi are always happy and friendly, but we forget that Malawi is one of the poorest countries. I found this so fascinating and wondered how this was possible. As my time in the villages went on, I came to realise that the Malawian people live simple lives, decluttered and without materialistic values. They have their very own recipe to happiness – family, community, life with no reason to chase time. Everything comes from the earth, whether it is the floors in the huts, the bricks used for walls from fired clay or palm leaves woven into roofs and mats for sleeping on. There are lots of chickens, cattle and even more goats! The goats are the good ones while the cattle are the naughty ones. With about 5 to 6 children in each family, every home is full.
Each community works in a different way, some harvest palm leaves for themselves, while others trade for palm. Everything is transported by bicycle, I mean EVERYTHING! All the roads to and from the villages and into the cities are covered in bicycles, there is a bicycle for every need from moving livestock to firewood. All our products are transported from our villages to the warehouse on the backs of these amazing bicycles, which is easier to believe once you’ve seen it in real life.
Throughout the years that we have been working in Malawi, we pride ourselves on how far our weaving communities have come, with no government funding or help from external organisations. We have managed to establish these structures, processes and weaving productions with blood sweat, tears and lots of dreams! There is always room for improvement in our infrastructure in this very rural country, we know there are delays and things that don’t always go according to plan. So with every basket sold, it helps us to strengthen and secure the livelihoods of the communities that we have been working with for the last 16 years. When you meet and sit with the people from these amazing villages, you realise how every bit of energy that goes into this business is so absolutely worth it!
Visit our Basket Range to shop any of handwoven African baskets.