Basket-making is one of the oldest handicrafts and has
been going on for generations without any significant changes.
Cyprus' natural resources
always provide suitable raw material in abundance. Very few tools are needed
and used by craftsmen to make the wide variety of baskets in different shapes
and sizes suitable for many uses.
The need for gathering and carrying goods such
as potatoes, grapes, olives, fruit, and so on led to the creation of items to
be used for this purpose. Plaited strips of rushes, reeds or leaves of date
palms were used to make soft baskets for the commercial transportation of crops
or for domestic purposes.
Raw Material & Types of Baskets
Out of all the raw material used, the
easiest to find is the hard reed. It is also the easiest to use, because
when soaked in water it becomes quite flexible. Furthermore, it comes in
different sizes and lengths.
In some cases, thin flexible twigs from trees
or bushes, such as turpentine tree, monks' tree and wild olive tree are used
together with the hard reed. In some villages they make different shapes of
baskets using only twigs. They also use twigs to dress large glass
containers, protecting them in this way from breaking, and the contents from
light. The big baskets are used mainly for carrying grapes, while the glass
containers for storing olive oil, wine and zivania, a local spirit.
Apart from cane, raw material that are still
used today are the different kinds of rushes such as jancus acutus,
erianthus, cat's tail or club rush for carrying delicate crops. Large
baskets, farti, were used mainly for carrying light products and zembilia
for the olives crops. The double baskets, sirizes, were placed on donkeys and
were used for carrying salt form the lakes, and the long strap
zembili, slung over the left shoulder of the farmer, was used for sowing
the seeds in the fields. The workers carried their olives and cheese for lunch
in small lidded baskets called korokolios. The bread was kept in a tapatzia
(soft basket with a cord) hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen. The
Talaria (type of soft baskets), widely used even today, are for draining and
pressing Cyprus cheeses.
Palm leaves, rope from stubble and straw, were
also used for making a variety of items. Tsestoi were
always used in the homes to dry in the sun local
foods, such as phides (type of noodles) and trachanas (raw form of food made of
wheat and milk), to keep the bread and flaounes (Easter cheese pies), and most
importantly to carry the koulouria (type of bread) used as invitations for
weddings and to exhibit the bride's dowry during wedding