Frieda Nakanyala
basket weaver, Namibia


Frieda Nakanyala is a 75-year-old Owambo basketmaker living on a homestead in Okankolo, northern Namibia. Frieda is called “Kuku,” which means grandmother in the Oshindonga language. Kuku uses palm leaves to make coiled baskets, using a stitch that is slightly different than those used by other ethnic groups in Namibia. She makes her own stitching needles using the spokes of broken umbrellas. She makes her dyes by cooking the bark of the omuye (wild plum) tree; the fruits from this tree are also edible.

Kuku works on her baskets every day, until it is dark. As a child, she made them to sell so that she could buy clothing. She makes baskets for gifts and trade, and for use in the homestead, including very large ones to store mahangu, the traditional grain. In the Oshindonga language, ontungwa means basket; an extra “o” (oontungwa) added at the beginning means more than one basket.


these pages submitted to africancraft.com by Jackie Abrams,
May. 2006 -- last updated, May. 2006