Lidded Basket

Date: early to mid-20th century

Geography: Rwanda

Culture: Tutsi peoples

Medium: Cane (willow ?)

Dimensions: H. 3 1/4 x D. 1/4 in. (8.3 x 0.6 cm)

Classification: Basketry-Containers

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Carlebach, 1958

Accession Number: 1978.412.327a, b


This basket, though miniature in scale, displays a remarkable degree of precision and a painstakingly fine weave. Coil-sewn baskets such as these are known as igiseke and were traditionally made by Tutsi aristocratic women. Historically, the privileged position of Tutsi women allowed them the leisure time necessary to perfect their skill at weaving these ultra-fine and intricately patterned containers. Few such creations exceeded five or six inches in height (for another example in the Museum's collection, see 1978.412.326a,b).

The surface of this basket features three rows of a repeating triangular-shaped motif in black. Such designs were used to enhance the basketry woven "tapestries" that decorated the interior of aristocratic Tutsi homes (see 2007.186, 2010.127, and 2011.6). The flat cover of the basket is formed from a coiled cylinder. It is decorated with a black dot at the center, out of which radiate concentric circles in alternating colors—black and natural buff. Surrounding the concentric circles is the same repeated triangular motif seen on the side of the basket. The bottom of the basket features a similar starburstlike motif that, however, is composed of a single central black dot with a number of radiating black triangles.