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Cooperatives Handmade Process The Academy ^Top

Gathering into cooperatives

The women artisans we partner with work in cooperatives—a legally recognized form of association in Rwanda that was promoted by the government after the 1994 genocide. At that time, Rwanda’s population was 70% female and its economy was in shambles. Women were left to rebuild the country, yet most lacked formal education and struggled to gain access to international export markets.

We partner with cooperatives of women artisans to address these issues of access and opportunity. We help women generate income to support themselves and their families in the present, and provide them with training to build profitable and sustainable businesses for the future.

Meet the cooperatives

Get to know the individual cooperatives that make Indego a reality.

Agatako Rwanda

Employs 12 artisans

The women of Agatako Cooperative are among the few that still know the ancient art of agaseke, a form of weaving from palm leaf that was once reserved for the king. Look at their products closely…you will be amazed.

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Umurimo

Employs 12 artisans

The members of Umurimo, all former street children, work with cowhorn and utilize a special varnishing technique called patte à polir. Their products have become instant Indego fan favorites – we cannot get enough!

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Twiyubake Family of Kayonza

Employs 30 artisans

Twiyubake means “to rebuild ourselves,” in Kinyarwanda, which is exactly what these 30 women are doing. Made up of genocide widows working side-by-side with the wives of imprisoned génocidaires, this cooperative fosters unity and reconciliation in post-conflict Rwanda. Plus they make beautiful products out of banana leaf. What more can we say? They’re awesome.

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Covamaya-Imirasire

Employs 146 artisans

Imirasire means “sunshine”, in Kinyarwanda, and the 150 skilled weavers of this cooperative truly do shine. We began partnering with this vibrant group of women in 2011 and haven’t looked back since. They have perfected the process of hand dying locally grown imigwegwe (sweetgrass) and weaving it into bold colorful baskets that have become a staple of our line.

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Ingenzi Knit Union (IKU)

Employs 150 artisans

Ingenzi Knit Union is a powerful combination of four knitting cooperatives (Hope, Hoziana, Mpore Mama, & Susuruka) that banded together in 2009. We couldn’t be happier that they did. Comprised of over 150 women, IKU has mastered the art of slide machine knitting to produce intricate (and warm!) knit pieces.

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Étainerie y’I HUYE

Employs 9 artisans

Étainerie y’I HUYE is the only cooperative of tin workers in Rwanda, and we thank our lucky stars for them everyday. Their pieces are quickly becoming staples of our jewelry line, creating a beautiful metallic contrast to our earthy woven fibers.

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Abaharanira- majyambere

Employs 20 artisans

Abaharaniramajyambere … Try saying that out-loud! This cooperative, which we lovingly refer to as “AJ,” located just outside of Butare, continuously strives for perfection. Their specialty is weaving hand dyed sweetgrass on top of carved wooden bowls made from the jacaranda tree, and the results are stunning.

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Abasangiye Iterambere (Abasangiye)

Employs 24 artisans

Each member of this cooperative is the mother of a child born of rape during the 1994 Genocide. When these 24 women banded together in 2010, they had no bank accounts, no place to work, no equipment and no specialized training. But Abasangiye means “those who share progress,” and the name couldn’t be more apt. These talented women have quickly become highly skilled and successful artisans, specializing in both sewing and hand-knitting.

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Cooperative de couture de Kicukiro (Cocoki)

Employs 29 artisans

This sewing cooperative in Kicukiro employs 33 women in Kigali. The first cooperative we ever partnered with – way back in 2007 - Cocoki has never ceased to amaze us with their exceptional products and masterful skills. Pouches, yoga bags, skirts, dresses…you name it, they’ll sew it.

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Ineza Putney

Employs 12 artisans

The Ineza Putney cooperative is a group of HIV+ young people in Kigali that creates beautifully foot-loomed scarves and fabrics. They learned this technique through a partnership with CHABHA--a nonprofit organization that collaborates with grassroots groups in Rwanda & Burundi to support children affected by AIDS.

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Shikama Ukore

Employs 12 artisans

The women of Shikama Ukore know how to rock it with their gorgeous block prints and handmade batik patterns. We are quickly finding all sorts of uses for their unique printed textiles.

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Cooperative De Vannerie De Nyamata (Covanya)

Employs 30 artisans

The 30 talented women of Covanya are masters of bright color and woven patterns. Smaller in size but just as big in spirit, Covanya is another group of talented imigwegwe weavers like Imirasire that produce our favorite need-one-for-every-room plateau baskets.

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All African Craft

Employs 22 artisans

All African Craft is the newest cooperative to join us. They specialize in delicately hand crocheting beads to create stunning pieces of jewelry.

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IBABA

Employs 28 artisans

This group of talented women can turn anything into a hand-embroidered work of art. Originally taught by Belgian nuns, IBABA disbanded following the 1994 Genocide. They recently resumed their incredible work and we couldn’t be happier.

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Huguka

Employs 25 artisans

The women of Huguka specialize in palm weaving – an intricate and time-intensive craft that requires dexterity and a good deal of patience. All that time is worth the final result, though—bright, bold, and beautiful patterned products!

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Ejo Hazaza

Employs 17 artisans

The women of Ejo Hazaza met through a local health program to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV from mother to child. All HIV+, their original mission was to earn income to purchase baby formula that could replace high-risk breastfeeding. Today they are doing that and more, practicing the intricate craft of loom-beading and producing consistently fabulous results.

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Ibyishimo

Employs 12 artisans

Ibyishimo means “joy” in Kinyarwanda, which is exactly the mantra they live by. We should all give it a try! The women of this cooperative specialize in sewing, and have recently revived the art of friendship bracelet making.

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Ihangane Ruli

Employs 15 artisans

The multitalented women of Ihangane Ruli specialize in palm weaving & sewing. Their palm clutches are quickly becoming Indego Africa bestsellers.

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The handmade process

All of our products are handcrafted using both indigenous and learned art forms. Each product beautifully showcases the time, talent and skill that went into its creation. By mixing the modern with the traditional, in aesthetic design and technique, we bring products to market that are uniquely suited for today’s creative, socially conscious consumer.

The techniques

From local raw materials to finished products – see the handmade process at work.

Natural Fiber Weaving

Grown locally and woven with love, the natural fibers we use to create our products include imigwegwe (sweetgrass), palm leaf and banana leaf. The natural fibers are hand-dyed and woven into beautifully vibrant baskets, clutches, hats, boxes, and more. Our classic plateau baskets, which combine traditional weaving techniques with modern colors and patterns, often take several days to complete.

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Sewing

Our collection wouldn’t be complete with out the fine-tuned sewing skills of our artisan partners. These seamstresses use foot-powered sewing machines to add the finishing touches to almost all of our products.

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Metal Working

Tin is a natural resource in Rwanda that can be shaped in incredible ways. The process is spellbinding: the tin is first sifted, melted into a mold, and then carved and shined for selling. The end results are always stunning.

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Hand Embroidery

Take another look! The women of IBABA are embroidering intricate images of animals, fruits, landscapes and more BY HAND. Yep, that’s right, by hand. These designs are so detailed that at first glance you might mistake them for screen prints, but they are so much more. IBABA has been perfecting this skill, first brought to Rwanda by Belgian Nuns, for years. They hand-embroider designs onto the softest Belgian linen and use a wide array of colorful thread to produce these works of art.

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Agaseke

Agaseke is a specialized weaving technique considered to be a lost craft. This expertise draws upon ancient weaving techniques once reserved only for the king. The women of the Agatako cooperative learned this sophisticated skill from an umukambwe (an “old man”) at the National Museum in Butare. The women of Agatako are the only cooperative in Rwanda that specialize in this traditional and exquisite art form—one fit for royalty (really!)

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Horn Shaping

An otherwise discarded resource, cow horn has truly revolutionized our line. In order to become the on-trend jewelry pieces found on our line, cow horn must be gathered, cured, cut, and sanded down, and then perhaps finished with some pieces of tin for good measure.

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Loom Beading

Our artisan partners learned the technique of loom beading in 2012 as part of our collaboration with jewelry designer Jill Golden. They have now mastered the art of transforming miniature delica beads into bright and detailed bracelets.

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Crochet Beading

Our artisan partners use the age-old technique of crochet knitting and add beads to create tightly woven patterns for jewelry and all sorts of embellishment pieces.

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Batik & Block Printing

Intricate and colorful patterns are printed on soft cotton to create beautiful fabrics with a unique handcrafted touch. Like snowflakes, no two prints are ever the same.

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Slide Machine Knitting

Slide machine knitting is a technique used to create even stitching with that same great hand-knit feel.

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Wood Carving

Using wood from the local jacaranda tree, our artisan partners carve and finish bowls to be used as the base for our woven Copabu pieces.

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Hand Knitting

There is something uniquely comforting about a hand-knit garment. When you wear the chunky, full and oh-so-warm scarves & accessories knit by our loving and talented artisan partners, you’ll feel the care and skill that went into each stitch.

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The Academy

The Leadership Academy provides intensive business training to emerging artisan leaders through bi-weekly training sessions. Participants in this six-month program study advanced business topics, participate in networking events and field trips, and attend seminars led by successful local entrepreneurs. Through this program, women develop the knowledge and skills to drive economic growth at their cooperatives and become engines of change in their communities.

We also provide basic education and jobs skills training programs to all of our artisan partners at their cooperatives. These courses are taught by top Rwandan university students through our partnership with Generation Rwanda, and include classes in: English, Kinyarwanda literacy, technology, entrepreneurship, & business management.

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