UKILI – The Art of Plaiting in Zanzibar

published 2006
written by Antje Förstle, founder of  MOTO Zanzibar and DADA Zanzibar

” This book is the result of several years effort
developing skills for products from a typical
Zanzibari craft aimed at an international high
These efforts match with the long-term
vision of the Department of Commercial Crops,
Fruits and Forestry (DCCFF) and that of MOTO
Cooperatives Network, which seek balancing
the need for poverty reduction at household level
and the sustainable utilisation of the natural resources.
Using materials illustrated in this book
MOTO has reaffirmed how the Wild Date Palm
(Phoenix reclinata) can best be used to produce
an environmentally friendly craft, the ukili,
particularly when prepared using solar energy.
Through these and the mobilisation of women
groups by DCCFFa large number of households
around Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park
are now benefiting from the increasing demand
of the ukili products in Zanzibar Stone Town
and overseas.
woman plaiting gombe zugu
Apparently, there is very little reference to this
craft, and the realisation of this book is the
testimony to the wealth of skills among the
women of Zanzibar.
Undoubtedly, the book shall provide
a good reference to some of the superb
plaiting patterns, which otherwise were consid-
ered non-existing in the coastal areas of Tanzania.
Over the last five years I have witnessed the
improvement of ukili products and designs to
which the author of this book, Antje Förstle,
has put personal initiatives. I would like to take
this opportunity to express my gratitude to her.
Now that the finest ukili patterns of the
Tanzanian coast have been documented, let’s
make the best use of it! “
Director– Department of Commercial Crops,
Fruits and Forestry, Zanzibar.
snake mat Znz head
old men baraza jamvi
kilindoni duka Halima Makame
car repair kikapu on head
women plaiting on cupboard
woman mkoba Chwaka
” … By sponsoring this book ‘Ukili Plaiting in
Zanzibar’ the Embassy has broken new ground:
that of documenting a threatened cultural
The decision to support Antje Förstle’s
project idea was easy, thanks to her convincing
concept and catching enthusiasm. During
her research, it quickly became obvious that
a preoccupation with the ‘ukili’ plaiting craft
of the Swahili, which is in danger of being lost,
can last years and that the findings can fill
volumes, especially as ‘ukili’ has barely been
documented up to-date.
Antje mat museum
With this book, you hold the results of a year’s
committed research combined with numerous
journeys along the Tanzanian Swahili coast
and to the islands of Unguja, Pemba and Mafia,
as well as visits to the museum archives and
libraries in Munich and London.
May the book awaken in you the wish to experience for
yourself the ‘ukili’ diversity of colours and patterns
in Tanzania. By purchasing this book, you have
already rendered a contribution to the conservation
of this craft as the entire proceeds will go
towards the conservation and continued mediation
of old plaiting techniques, which are unfortunately
threatened by extinction.”
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany
Dar es Salaam

The book ‘UKILI Plaiting in Zanzibar’ is available at the MOTO and DADA shop, Hurumzi Street 416, Stonetown, Zanzibar

Interested? But not in Zanzibar? Please send a mail to:


11 Responses to “UKILI – The Art of Plaiting in Zanzibar”

  1. Diane Pelrine Says:

    Having done a bit of research on Zaramo basketry and matmaking in the 1980s, I am very interested in your project and in this publication. Is there a distributor in the US, or is there some other way I can obtain a copy?

  2. kirsten scott Says:

    i would love to buy a copy of the book- ukili- the art of plaiting in zanzibar.
    i am currently researching african plaited braids at the rca, london, and working on a project in uganda. really interested in the varieties and where it all started.

  3. Nicole Mitchell Says:

    I am interested in buying this ‘The Art of Plaiting in Zanzibar’, but I live in UK and was wondering if there was a chance it could be sent to me somehow? I need it quite urgently for some research.
    Please let me know what you can do!

    Nicole Mitchell

  4. Eliana Kim Says:

    I am really into your project.Is there any way to get this book at UK?On the way to conduct the research regarding ‘Design and branding strategy for Swahili craft’,i would like to have your book for research.Please let me know;)

    Apart from that,your project is soooo fabulous:)

  5. frances potter Says:

    Hello Antje – this after years – but looking through the Moto plaited products – oh wow!!!! congratulations to all of you for achieving these fabulous results. is it still possible to get a copy of your book on plaiting? lots to swap news about – my email is below

  6. susana ventura Says:

    Please tell me how much the book is…i am in Zanzibar and would like to visit your workshop

  7. Dianne Says:

    We are in Zanzibar on holiday near jozani forest and could call at the workshop on our way to the airport on Saturday. Do you have the Ukili plaiting book there and how much is it please.
    Thank you

  8. Manuel Saporiti Says:

    Can i Gent the book iam in Portugal

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