Zulu Ilala Mbenge Basket


Zulu Ilala Mbenge Basket

– Handwoven using the Ilala Palm leaves and shredded grass.

Mbenge’s are small saucer-shaped baskets used to serve dried foodstuffs or to cover the opening of clay beer pots and as wall hangings.

Supplied with a tag with the weavers name.

Dimensions (Diameter) 40cm (Depth) 4cm

In stock


Zulu Ilala Mbenge Basket

This basket is uniquely handwoven using the Ilala Palm leaves and shredded grass.

Handcrafted in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.

Mbenge baskets are tightly woven and used to serve as a platter for serving dried foodstuffs as well as used upside down to function as a lid or cover for clay beer pots. When not in use it is hung on the wall of the hut as part of the decor.

The natural color is beige and other beautiful colors are created using natural dyes from bark, leaves, berries, clay, and roots.

Ilala palm grows along the North-Eastern coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

Once cut and dried, the leaf is then prepared for weaving into these fine, water-tight baskets.

Zulu baskets are an integral part of the Zulu culture and customs that

almost disappeared with the introduction of enamel, tin, and plastic, and they are now used mostly in very rural areas.

Authentic traditional Zulu baskets are a rare find at this time.

Collecting these baskets is interesting but challenging.

Please notice the tightness of the weave.

A tighter weave is an indication of authenticity and the quality and collectible value of the basket.

This basket has both diamond and triangular shapes, representing both female and male.


Zulu baskets are not only known for their amazing use of organic materials and natural dyes; but one can also tell apart Zulu baskets by their display of interesting and unique designs and styles. Some designs stand for bigger and deeper meanings than just your average basic shapes. According to the Zulu, the recognizable symbols and markings are as follows:



Triangle — The triangle pattern stands for  a masculine symbol. If it contains a double triangle, it signals for a married man.


Series of Diamonds — The series of diamonds also tells about Shaka only this time it displays a feminine symbol along with the representation of the “shields of Shaka.”


Checkerboards, Whirls or Circles — All of these markings call for different categories whether it be good news, arrival of a new baby, good rains, and/or plentiful harvest.


Diamond — The diamond design is referred to as a feminine symbol. if it contains two diamonds that make an hour glass shape, it distinguishes a married woman.


Zig-Zag — The Zig-Zag displays a masculine figure along with representing the “spear of Shaka” who in old times was the leader of the Zulu people.


Points Around the Outside — These tiny details show the number of cattle paid as bride-wealth for a wedding.