Etsha 6 born and bred basket weaver who does amazing basketry works has continued to empower local women through free basket weaving lessons for the beneficiaries to make a living out of the art.
Thitaku Kushonya, who is based in Maun started basketry 41years ago from the skills she got from her mother on making baskets of different patterns and colours.
Baskets, are made from the fan palm trees (Mokolwane) commonly found in the Okavango Delta. To create different colours and to decorate the baskets, they use plants like motsentsela, letlhajwa, motlhakola, kgope, mohetsola and sweet reads.
Initially, her women empowerment initiative started as a workshop in Etsha where she taught women how to weave until they mastered the skill. She further taught many other groups of women in Gumare, Shakawe, Maun and Shorobe so that they turn weaving into a source of income.
Kushonya does not only do traditional baskets but also weaves traditional bags, chairs, tables and mats. She owns a craft shop named ‘Botswana Quality Baskets’ where some of the finest basketry and crafts are on display.
Located at Boronyane in Maun, the craft shop which started operating in 2009 has since grown into a thriving rural business that is highly recognised in Maun.
She told The Weekender that her initiative was inspired by lack of employment which led many women into desperation. Kushonya added that she also wanted the weaving culture to be valued and protected for future generations as a part of culture.
Kushonya also noted that she teaches girls of different ages with her youngest student being a 5-year-old girl from Maun. She added that most of her younger students actually grasp the concept faster than the older women and are able to start their businesses soon after learning.
Some of her students are seen displaying their beautiful basketry works at the malls and along the roads to attract customers, especially the tourists.
Her greatest achievement is that through her work, she was able to develop herself, open a craft shop and also empower other women. In addition, she noted that she has represented Botswana internationally.
According to her, she has been to places like Washington DC, Atlanta, Santa Fe, Cape Town, Windhoek, Madagascar, China, Germany, Netherlands, Canada and Disneyland after winning many basket competitions.
Kushonya is a very religious person who believes that her hard work and God’s grace have made everything possible. “I believe that with God nothing is impossible, he is able to take you to places that you could never have imagined,” she said.