“My mother taught me how to weave baskets when I was 10 years old but that was not my full-time trade,” she recounts. Bagurusi reflects the olden days when she used to make a bounty from farming as she used to dig acres of Irish potato, sorghum and other food stuffs. Five years ago however, her body could not deal as her back ached at every attempt to dig. She opted to revive her childhood skill –weaving baskets – to earn a living.
“Every week, I finish one basket which I sell at either Shs5,000 or Shs8,000 depending on the size. I spend this money on a litre of milk. I take one litre of milk with a piece of roasted sweet potato as my meal every day. I do not eat any other food because of my stomach complications. Despite my advanced age, I dread being idle and begging,” says the resident of Kijuguta, Northern division in Kabale Municipality. Some people visit and ask her for a free basket and she quickly replies, “Go and bring for me weaving materials in return for one.”
Bagurusi, a mother of 10 of whom only six are still alive and her first born is a retired officer of Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB ) Peace Bagurusi. Betty Keirungi, 54, is her disabled daughter with whom she lives. Keirungi helps her mother to gather the weaving materials which are sometimes scarce because most of the wetlands have been reclaimed into farms.
“There is ready market for my products but the challenge these days is the scarcity of weaving materials,” Bagurusi explains.
She hums as she hooks dry papyrus strips neatly in a circular shape. Her worn hands reflect a day’s work to earn a living. Unlike some senior citizens who sit home waiting on their caretakers or family and friends to help them, Tofasi Bagurusi, 88, spends her day weaving baskets which support her family; a disabled daughter and grandson with hearing impairment.
Bagurusi starts her day’s work at around 8am. “You are welcome; we praise the Lord who has kept me alive for all these years,” she says, as she offers guests a seat. While adjusting her woolen sweater, she cannot contain herself as she converses about the day’s events. On the particular day we visit, she is in high spiirits and talks about anything.