This is one of several types of basketry milk containers made and used by the Oromo, a pastoral people who raise cattle in southern Ethiopia. This waterproof container is made from vegetal fibres and decorated with cowrie shells. Read the story..
The Oromo people are semi-nomadic herders. Milk containers themselves are vital objects in a culture where raising cattle is of central importance. These milk jugs were a part of everyday life, used to carry and preserve milk from their cows.
Among the Oromo, all women are expected to learn to make woven milk containers like the 'gorfa'. The 'gorfa' is a pear-shaped, lidded container woven from root fibres of a plant. Gorfa also have an average capacity of about two litres and are used for storing and chuming milk. They are smoked using charcoal. This also probably serves to sterilize and seal the container and burns off loose fibres an the inside to create a smooth surface. Smoking an,d rinsing the gorfa with milk occurs just prior to adding fresh milk that is to be stored for several days.
The milk that these containers hold is a symbol of abundance & weaving is associated with fertility. The container and the milk thus symbolize the ideal combination of abundance and fertility, two fundamental requirements for the reproduction and prosperity of the family and community.
Every basket is unique and in good overall condition (signs of use, small imperfections).