From Web to Winnowing Basket (Uteo)

Tags: uteo, winnowing, basket, training, commons

What models do we have for commons that we can relate to? The Winnowing basket is one of my favorites and written here is a brief description of how it is used as symbolic a learning aid.


We start in learning by standing in a circle and after holding hands and setting intentions, we begin to weave a rope one by one between us to demarcate the actual web or network of service we provide each other. It's important to see this network of people that support eachother and their services as a commons - as it can be taken for granted.

This network resembles the threads of a basket – especially a winnowing basket (Uteo in Kiswahili). Each strand holding the uteo together can be seen as a connection of service you hold among your community. When these strands of service are woven well with care the uteo itself is useful and treated with care.


If the uteo was not braided well together – it wouldn’t hold the valuable beans inside it or be able to discern the goods ones from the chaff and stones alike. Seeing the gaps in our network is a way to address challenges.

In learning, we can now use the beans in the uteo as vouchers to represent that which the community values and hand it out to those committed to holding the uteo/network/web/community/commons - together.

In learnin, we trade these vouchers together – as a way to measure and fairly share our valuable resources. Especially those resource that we want to ensure flow, reciprocally and finally come to settlement. The Vouchers, like beans are not permanent but decay (demurrage) and must be consumed and regrown.