Two years ago, Binky Newman and Frances Potter wanted to make a change in the lives of basket weavers living and working in the economic ruins of Zimbabwe. After searching extensively they found two centres that were trying to continue their work even though tourism was practically non-existent, giving rise to what is now known as the New Basket Workshop (TNBW).
As a non-for-profit company, TNBW aims to provide design and product assistance by collaborating with South African designers. Their latest range of baskets, to be presented at Design Indaba Expo 2010, is in collaboration with leading designer Heath Nash. The range will showcase light fittings woven from plant fibres, as well as Nash’s trademark recycled plastic work, made by remote basket weavers in Zimbabwe.
“I have had a long standing desire to research the question of how to impart simple design thinking to people who have great skill but little contemporary interface time,” says Nash about collaborating with TNBW. Having started the collaboration in 2009, Nash describes the workshop experience as one of the most rewarding experiences in his life.
The project has succeeded beyond what TNBW had imagined, but Newman and Potter say that the best reward for them has been the weavers’ reaction. The income that is now flowing into the communities has fostered an aura of prosperity. Although still young, TNBW is taking great strides by showing SA that a simple idea can help change the lives of many.