Art and Life Among the Zaramo of Tanzania

by Diane Pelrine
Indiana University Art Museum

Woman making mats and baskets, Zaramo peoples, Tanzania. Photo by Diane Pelrine.

Zaramo women make mats and baskets using a technique that combines plaiting and sewing.  First, fiber is plaited into long strips that are wound into rolls.  When at least two rolls are completed, the strips are sewn edge to edge into the desired form.  Most sitting mats are either striped, such as the one hanging behind the woman in this photo, or patterned or painted.  Mats are admired for their fine plaiting, even width, and balance of light and dark.  Although basic plaiting skills were at one time learned by all girls as part of female responsibilities, today many women buy their baskets and mats from neighbors or at markets.