Craftsmanship in Uganda is a practice that has been passed down from generation to generation.
More than just attractive ornaments, Uganda’s handicrafts reflect the diverse history, culture, popular cuisine, environment and beliefs of its tribes. Pieces are created according to the necessities of the people in each region, as well as the availability of natural materials.
Woven baskets are essential in the Ugandan home – a large, lidded basket keeps millet bread warm, while a small basket filled with groundnuts is offered to visitors as a symbol of friendship. These baskets, along with beautifully crafted bowls, are colored with vegetable dyes and woven into intricate patterns to display the skill of the craftsperson.
Bark cloth is a traditional material – this stiff, vibrant orange fiber was once used to make clothes but is now often used to produce wide-brimmed hats – perfect to take on safari!
Wood is used for functional items such as bowls and spoons – carved to accentuate the grain. It is also use to create elegant ornaments, particularly native animals and figurines, which are sometimes produced of polished ebony. Stools, plaques and musical instruments are also hand carved in Uganda – including the long envamulre flute, which is played to thank the gods for a good harvest.
Other musical instruments which make unusual souvenirs include hide drums and adungus – melodic stringed instruments from Uganda’s West Nile region.
Less traditional but equally as attractive is paper jewelry – vibrant strings of paper beads crafted into necklaces, bracelets and earrings. This initiative was started by Bead for Life, and has become an important source of income for women in poor households across the country.
To find out more about these unique crafts and how they are made, take part in one of the community craft workshops – and learn how to weave your own basket or create your own jewelry!