Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published February 2nd 2015
Markets a great way to enjoy your Sunday
Got a Sunday spare, what can I do? I decided to drive to one of my favourite markets on the north side of Brisbane, which I don't often have the opportunity to visit. Eagle Farm Markets situated in Lancaster Road at the Eagle Farm Racecourse and is on every Sunday from 7am to 12.30. What I like about it is that you can park inside the grounds and for only $2.00 you can get a park really close so carrying your goods back to the car isn't an arduous experience for your hands or shoulders.
As I'm an early riser, 7.00 am is a great time to get in before the crowds arrive and as this is a popular market it doesn't take long before masses of head counts can be made everywhere. As with most markets there are the regular stall holders that have deemed this to be the most suitable market for their businesses and other stall holders that may come once and not again. The fruit and vegetable stores are a hit, with queues of people lined up with baskets loaded full of fresh produce.
Me, I head for one of my favourite stall holders "Melo Blue Fashions". Owner, Melina Lipovsek has 16 years' experience as a business owner in the fashion industry and is currently a permanent stall holder every Sunday at Eagle Farm Markets, on Saturdays at Carseldine Markets and Wednesdays at Eumundi Markets.
The Melo Blue fashion range caters for the middle to mature age group with a point of difference for quality, style and flare. Sizes from 8 to 20 and competitive prices from $35 to $59, I have purchased a variety of blouses in styles to suit my working wardrobe. A change room and mirror is available for trying on clothes. Once Mel knows her regulars' colour preferences and style requirements, it is easy for her to advise you when new stock arrives from her overseas manufacturers. This way you will not miss out on the new styles as they become available.
Melo Blue Fashions also provide services to nursing homes and retirement villages.
Another stall holder that caught my eye on that Sunday was Afropacific. Selling African baskets textiles, artefacts and crafts and Rasta & Reggae Wear, this stall captured my interest, firstly, from the brightness of their merchandise.
My interest was in the many shapes and colours of the bags, which are made from sundried elephant grass and coloured with natural vegetable and mineral dyes. They are double woven to give strength and durability and are able to be reshaped by lightly wetting the bag and reshaping with your hands. Elephant grass is a species of grass native to the tropical grasslands of Africa.
The merchandise from Afropacific comes mostly from the small town of Bolgatanga and exported to Brisbane from the southern port city of Takoradi , taking an 8-week journey across the ocean. After arrival in Brisbane, all goods are inspected by Customs and Quarantine and undergo fumigation via heat treatment before they are released for sale.
-The men, women and children of the Fra Fra tribe. The Fra Fra tribe is located in, and around, Bolgatanga, in Ghana’s Upper East Region.
I have read that it is only women that make these baskets. Could you please explain?
-Yes, that women (women’s groups) only weave these baskets is common misinformation when it comes to the basket industry in Bolgatanga.
Traditionally, it was the men that did the weaving – not women.
Men would weave sieves for filtering the local alcohol -brewed from millet - out of a straw processed from grasses that are indigenous to Bolgatanga and it’s immediate environs.
As far as I can gather – and I might be wrong – the weaving industry in Bolgatanga started about 40 years ago when a design was introduced by the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ – the German government’s overseas development agency). I believe the design introduced to the weavers of Bolgatanga -by the German government- is what the Baba Tree calls a ‘’Round Basket.’’ From this intervention, an industry was born.
When the industry started, it was mostly men that wove the baskets but as the economy changed over the years, more women have become involved to the point where there are more women weaving the baskets than men.
Various importers and traders of baskets that are made in Bolgatanga like to say that it is ‘’women’s groups’’ that weave the baskets because it is more politically correct to say so (and better for the bottom line) and, additionally, they probably have little knowledge of what goes on in the industry here owing to the fact that most importers of these baskets rarely spend time here.
There are villages around Bolgatanga where weavers, who are men, far outnumber the weavers who are women.
You mentioned that children also weave. Do they weave for the Baba Tree?
YES!! Children joyfully weave for the Baba Tree!
Children want to weave and make money.
Though the Baba Tree has a group of adult weavers that comes to our compound to weave, children weave after school, and on weekends, in their family compound.
Sadly, and frustratingly, we don’t provide enough work for the children or buy enough of their baskets. This really bums me out.
As the Baba Tree grows, this will change and we’ll buy more baskets from them.
What are the baskets made of?
The baskets are woven from straw from a type of ‘veta vera’ grass. “Pennisetum Straw” or “Pennisetum Purperium”
Contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, the straw that it used is not a ‘’local’’ straw that grows in Ghana’s very hot and arid Upper East Region, rather, it is a straw that is wild harvested and dried 300 – 600 klms south of Bolgatanga in Ghana’s cooler, wetter south.
The dried straw is then transported to Bolgatanga.
Our hats, however, are woven from a finer straw that is indigenous to Bolgatanga, and elsewhere, in the Upper East Region. This is the same straw that men used to weave the sieves for filtering alcohol.
The baskets that have handles are reinforced with leather made from goat hide. The leather adds a lot of strength to the basket handles.
90% of the dyes we use are chemical dyes. Any website that tells you that the straw is dyed with purely natural dyes is fibbing.
The latest spin regarding dyes is that ‘’vegetable and mineral” dyes are used to dye the straw for basket weaving in Bolgatanga.
Thanks for your comments. I bought the orange multi-coloured jacket/blouse - I love the colours in it. The best part is, although there are a number in the same design, it's not like there are hundreds of the same pattern that you will see yourself in every place you go. Susan