Baskets at the British Museum

My basket-making efforts can’t hope to compete with an exhibition on at the British Museum at the moment. Part of its Australian season, the Baskets and Belonging exhibition brings together a lovely collection of Aboriginal baskets made using different techniques and from different materials.

These include a contemporary woven basket made from strapping tape and a coiled basket made from ‘ghost net’ – bits of fishing net that have been cut loose and left to drift. There’s also a small basket made from kelp, used to carry water.

Bicornial baskets could be used for fishing as well as carrying goods

But I was particularly struck by the early 19th-century bicornial, or crescent-shaped, baskets woven from cane. Some had short handles for carrying by hand; others had much longer handles that you wound round your forehead, leaving the basket dangling down your back and your hands free.

Like me, they used whatever materials they had to hand. But processing the cane or kelp undoubtedly took a bit longer than cutting up plastic bags!

The exhibition is in room 91 of the British Museum until 11 September 2011 and is free.

PS I also visited the Afghanistan exhibition while I was at the museum – well worth a look for the stunning Bactrian gold, including an amazing braided belt and a folding crown, and gorgeous carved ivories.

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