Cane is the term for the material that comes from the outer skin of the rattan stalk, native to asia and africa. It is durable, somewhat flexible, glossy and non-porous.
Cane strips have been used in weaving objects since ancient times, originating as basket material and evolving into furniture.Cane was used all over Asia and Africa throughout history. In the 19th century, caned furniture became associated mainly with Dutch and English colonial furniture, because these countries had colonies in places like Indonesia and India where rattan was easily accessed and where the technique may had a long history. This colonial aesthetic spread across the globe to other European colonies as well; caned furniture made sense in tropical climates because, unlike solid woods, it would not warp or crack from heat or humidity.
Cane furniture in Malawi:
The cane furniture industry in Malawi is comprised of largely informal/unlicensed businesses that source material from surrounding community forest areas. Sales occur on the roadside, predominantly targeting visitors/travelers.
Over the years, the number of cane manufacturers has grown, increasing competition. Because the product is long-lasting, the market is now close to being saturated and the cane-weavers complain of low sales. They also express concern about the scarcity of raw material.
As competition is big Cane furniture makers need to focus on quality and design. Their products need to improve if they want to reach new markets and as a result achieve better livelihoods for themselves and their families.