Basket weaving in Mauritius

Anouchka Pierre Louis is one of our island’s talented craftswomen. She spends her days basket weaving, blending vacoas and vetiver leaves to create beautiful baskets and gifts. Want to know how it’s done? We met with Anouchka to learn about the process and how she learnt her craft.

Basket weaving in Mauritius

How did you learn basket weaving?

I learnt the weaving technique from my mother-in-law. It’s a tradition in Rodrigues where she is originally from. She taught me to make hats, but I prefer to use the technique to make baskets. In Rodrigues, they have mastered hat and basket weaving from vacoas and vetiver leaves. As soon as I learnt how to make a weave, I started making baskets, handbags and wallets.


How do you grow or source the crop?

I get help from a lot of people! It’s a busy process, so my mother-in-law and friends help prepare the weaves. There’s my husband, too! He helps me out a lot and he is the one who gives me the support I need to do this job, because it does get very hectic!

I use vacoas leaves, a plant that grows everywhere! In forests, in our garden, anywhere there is a warm climate. It doesn’t need watering, so you don’t have to tend to them much during the growing stage. Once we plant vacoas, it grows by itself and we can collect the leaves four or five years later.

We collect the leaves out in the forests. But I also buy from people who have it growing in their gardens. Because vacoas is endemic, we encourage our community to grow the plants. We’ll buy it from them and, that way, they can make some extra money. We’ll then use it to create these beautiful baskets.


What’s the process before you start basket weaving?

So, the first step is to harvest the vetiver, clean every leaf and choose the ones you want to use. Then separate them in little bundles and leave them to dry. Once dried, you need to smooth each leaf. It’s the same process for the vacoas, but that plant has thorns, so you also have to get rid of those.

And then, the weaving starts!

So, I do the base first. Then I start wrapping the weave around with the help of a sewing machine. The main material we use is the vacoas leaf, then vetiver. Then, we add fabric, glue and cardboard. We also use lace, crochet hooks and paint.


Why are your baskets special?

What I create is quite rare because I blend vetiver and vacoas leaves to make my products. People tend to weave with only the vetiver or the vacoas leaves, so a blend is more complicated. We only work with weaves that blend both plants.

These bags are very durable and you can use them for years! I also make table sets, tablecloths, handbags, jewellery cases and laundry baskets.

You need a lot of patience to do this job and you need to love what you do. Otherwise, it’s not going to work!


What advice would you give to those travelling to Mauritius?

My favourite spot on the island is the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens. There are so many endemic plants to see and I like to learn more about them.

I would also tell our visitors to be respectful of the environment and do not bring plastic bags with you, as single-use plastic bags are banned on the island. All of our vacoas baskets are eco-friendly, so I encourage you to use one during your stay!

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