Friday, February 25, 2011

What exactly IS raffia?

What is eco-friendly and has many uses? Yep, you guessed it, Raffia. Used for items such as purses, fabric, baskets, rugs and even wallcoverings, Raffia comes from Raffia palms that are found in Africa and Central and South America. The membrane on the underside of each individual frond leaf is taken off to create a long thin fibre which can be dyed and woven as a textile into products ranging from hats to shoes to decorative mats. This incredibly durable fabric is amazing for any upholstery job and is often used for lounge chairs at beach resorts.
 Tribal artists from ancient cultures from Madagascar to the Congo have used Raffia for centuries as a decorative element to create ceremonial clothing, embellish masks and create beautiful accessories such as rugs, mud cloths, embroideries, wall decorations and baskets.

The palm frond’s membrane is not the only thing that this amazing natural resource provides. So as to not waste the tree and all the resources it provides, when cultivating the trees they cut a box in the top of the palm and suspending a large gourd to collect the milky white sap. The palm’s sap contains natural sugar. When first cultivated it is very sweet, as it sits it begins to ferment and converts more sugar. The sap is usually called wine and is often distilled into strong liquors called Ogogoro.

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