One of the first items we launched Muzungu Sisters with in 2011 was the Sicilian basket, and we continue to work with wonderfully talented artisans who weave and decorate the baskets for us.
The Sicilian basket, or coffa was the ancient straw basket used by peasants to feed their horses and donkeys. The original coffa Siciliana is made of palma nana, Sicilian dwarf palm straw, which is an indigenous straw found only in the mountains of Sicily.
Muzungu Sisters' Sicilian baskets are still made in the same ancient tradition today: an elderly gentleman (a basketweaver near Palermo) heads to the mountains to collect the palma nana straw and then weaves the baskets by hand for us. Then the baskets travel to the east coast of Sicily where they are adorned with pom poms and mirrors in the ancient Sicilian tradition. The adornments are sewed on, stitch by stitch – never glued on as you will find with other baskets.
Sadly, since we started ordering Sicilian baskets in 2011, one of the basket-weavers died, highlighting the fact that this traditional artform needs to be cherished and valued. There are less than a handful or artisans in Sicily who still produce these baskets in the traditional manner.
Venetian slippers, or ‘friulane’ were traditional worn by countrymen in the Friuli countryside post World War II, and then appropriated by gondoliers in Venice who chose to wear them so as not to ruin the paint of their precious gondolas. Ours are handmade by the finest artisans in the Friuli region.