The most exciting thing that has happened at Ethnic Supplies has been the introduction of a new group of producers from Rwanda.
After the 1994 Rwandan Genocide Rebuilding the nation of Rwanda was never going to be easy following the atrocities of 1994, especially the economy of that wonderful nation. Women were especially vulnerable due to their lack of property specifically agricultural land. The women got together and formed weaving circles called the Ageseke.
The group is made up of 3800 women from in and around the capital city Kigali. The project provides training skills to impoverished African women to work their way out of poverty, these skills include, weaving, family planning, literacy and business skills
Dinah Musindarwezo Project Manager of the Ageseke spoke to Leslie Ethnic Supplies Africa Operation Manager about the famous basket from Rwanda
After the 1994 weaving of Agaseke came to be popular in promoting and rebuilding peace and Unity among Rwandans. This is because, women came together to weave regardless of their ethnic background which promoted friendship and peace among them.
Agaseke is a highly valued product in Rwandan traditions, primarily woven by women. Historically Agaseke symbolizes confidentiality. One set (there are 5 baskets) in set is of Valentine baskets (Agaseke) takes 14 days to weave,
When girls were given Agaseke on their wedding day as a symbol that they should keep secrets of their new homes, The family of a girl to be married also gave Agaseke to the family marrying the girl as a sign that the girl is still intact and covered just like how Agaseke is, which means that the girl is still a virgin.
As for fruit basket (Ipulato) is not as popular as Agaseke in Rwandan culture but it was also woven by women and used in households to keep the harvests of the households. One Ipulato takes 4 days to weave; it is also made out of sisal and other grasses
Today, both products are being used for different purposes including jewellery boxes, decorations and storage of food fruits, sweets etc.
Materials used are; sisal for Agaseke. Sisal plant was previously a wild plant but today it cultivated, the leaves of the leaves of the plant are peeled to reveal a white thread like by product and it is this that is used in the weaving.
The white sisal is then dyed to a desired colour. Some colours like brown and cream/off-white are natural colours made out of tea and coffee whilst others are made from plant roots
The colour is made by boiling water, pour in the dye, deep in the sisal, boil together for about 30 minutes while steering every 10 minutes.