Travelling through Rwanda

Last December I set off for Rwanda at the request of one my clients. I met two co-ops Gahaya Links and KIAKA

The co-op was in existence well before the genocide and has 400 permanent members but workks with at least 2000 artisans.

From Rwanda December 2009

Jean de Dieu selected them as one of the two groups that would be best placed to meet my client’s needs so he took me to meet them.

I have done this so many times i.e. meeting artisans, it is part of the criteria for groups to come on board, but it each time I meet a new group it feels like I am doing so for the first time.  I also almost always end up in tears when I hear the human stories behind the work.  Doubt sets in and I wonder whether I am the best person to do the work I am doing.

This group has both men and women as part of the group. They have a variety of products, some of which are produced on site. There was a whole section dedicated to woodwork. What I found fascinating in this section was the brush making section. I had never given any thought about how brushes are made and here I was watching the whole process, handmade brushes! The choice of bristles was interesting too, there were the usual plastic ones but I found the ones made from the coconut shell more interesting

The coconut shell is shaved and what you end up with is this pile.

From Rwanda December 2009

This is then hand-woven into the wooden end of the brush as bristles! It is this creativity and ingenuity of the people that I work with that almost always reduce me to tears

This group’s work is largely exported to France and the typical wage for the members is $100 a month but some may earn as much as $400 a month depending on what they do at the co-op. For a country where people live on a $1 a day, I would say this is a very good wage.

From Rwanda December 2009

Hair ornament made from cow horn

I spoke to 2 women who were making place-mats from the banana fibre the lady on the left is a single Mum of 9, her husband went to Congo and is believed dead, the other has 5 children with a husband at home who doesn’t have a job. They told me that the biggest chunk of money they earn is put towards the children’s education

From Rwanda December 2009

The co-op is situated on the shadows of a volcanic mountain and consequently there are pumice stones everywhere. I asked permission to take some away and the head of the co-op was stunned that I would want to take away what is considered rubbish to the locals. I explained that we in Europe pay for this stuff and I just couldn’t over the fact that there was so much of it here. I asked him whether they sell the pumice stones and he told me they don’t, but he now understand why when groups arrive from America, the women are seen filling their bags with the stones whilst the men look at the crafts and explore the workshops!

Jean De Dieu, was surprised too when he realised that this group could potentially have an income from something right on their door step!

These are the sleeping baskets made by this group. My Vet client really lvoed them and the group is currently working on an order for him.

From Rwanda December 2009
From Rwanda December 2009

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