Angeline Bonisiwe Masuku
Medium of Work:
Angeline Bonisiwe Masuku resides in rural Hlabisa, in northern South Africa. She first learned to weave baskets at eight years old under the watchful eye of her aunt, a master weaver of traditional Zulu ilala baskets, which typically include subtle coloration and intricate design. Often, animals are ingeniously woven into the design of the basket, which might also include encircling stripes or geometric designs. When Masuku’s aunt passed away in 2005, Masuku took on the role of teaching family members and others how to make these highly specialized, technically difficult artworks.
Basket-making has deep roots in Masuku’s family, and in many other Zulu communities. Traditionally, baskets serve multiple purposes in the household, from storing sorghum beer and dry grains to keeping sacred herbs and medicines. In addition to creating her own work, Masuku also assists over thirty weavers in her community, helping them access markets and sell their art in larger city centers like Durban and Johannesburg. Masuku says, “When I produce my work, I concentrate on expressing unique geometric designs which are inspired by Zulu beadwork.” Other designs depicted are drawn from her immediate environment—such as imagery of chickens and birds.
Baskets are made with locally gathered, indigenous ilala palm grass, and either left undyed or else colored with natural pigments. Masuku works with a group of women to collect palm from the mountains outside Hlabisa. Including Masuku, there are a total of eight women who weave ilala baskets. Thanks to the dedication and ingenuity of artists like Angeline Bonisiwe Masuku, elegantly beautiful ilala baskets are now able to be treasured not just in South Africa, but around the globe.