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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

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20 Years Later |  A Message of Remembrance & Hope

#artisans, #community

Today the world recognizes the 20th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, when over 800,000 people were killed over 100 days of unimaginable violence. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all those who continue to grapple with the horrors that took place.

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As we pause and remember, we also want to send a message of hope—hope grounded in the remarkable and awe-inspiring progress Rwanda has made since the dark days of 20 years ago. We wish to commend our artisan partners who, through their resourcefulness, perseverance, and steadfast determination, have become engines of change in their communities and helped rebuild their country. We admire their courage and bravery, and share in their unwavering hope for even brighter futures to come.

Below are the inspiring words of Rosine Urujeni, Indego Africa’s Country Director, reflecting on what the 20thcommemoration of the genocide means to her:

"It is a time to remember our loved ones (kwibuka) that we never knew or hardly knew because they were taken from us abruptly and for no reason. It is a time to reflect on what is wrong and what is right; what our actions and words mean to others; and what impact we have on our community and country. 

As Albert Einstein said 'We cannot despair of humanity since we ourselves are human beings.' It is a time to remember that we are the masters of our lives and that our actions will last forever. We shall never forget to keep faith and to hope for forgiveness for those who committed acts of inhumanity.

The 20th commemoration of the genocide means that as human beings we must continue to work for the common good and to uplift ourselves and our communities. We shall never forget that as human beings, we must strive to do what is best not only for ourselves, but also for others.”

In honor of remembrance, progress, and hope we will be featuring special posts about our artisan partners for the rest of the month. We hope you’ll continue to check back here and share in their stories. 

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Staff Picks

#art, #africa

Sharing with you all the things we love - Staff pick by Brittany Barb – Branding Associate

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As a life-long lover of elephants, photography and a good coffee table book, I can’t get enough of Nick Brandt’s incredible collection, Across the Ravaged Land. It is the third in a trilogy of books depicting the disappearing animals of East Africa and its images of elephants are particularly beautiful (and heartbreaking).

Nick Brandt
Nick Brandt Photography
Nick Brandt Photography

Nick Brandt advocates against elephant poaching both through his powerful photography and his organization, the Big Life Foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating poaching activities in East Africa.

I promise this book will become a staple of your coffee table accoutrements. Speaking of accoutrements (and lovers-of-all-things-elephant) I can’t forget to mention Indego’s elephant pendant, my personal favorite, which I promise will also become a staple in your life!

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Inspiration from Rwanda

#artisans, #community, #weaving

Guest post by: Nicole Heim // There is something very special about an item that is handmade. Great care and quality goes into a product when a single craftsperson sees it from start to finish. When that same product also empowers a female artisan, you have a deeply meaningful end result.

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Upon arriving at Cocoki, the sewing cooperative where I’m training a group of five women, I found a large room of highly skilled artisans. While I may have been teaching Claire, Florence, Ngabire, Beata and Goretti a few skills they hadn’t already mastered, you wouldn’t have known it by watching. As I presented each new piece of information, they quickly digested and executed every step, thoroughly and thoughtfully. They collaboratively worked to measure, cut, and sew with special attention to detail, taking initiative when necessary, proving just how capable they are.

In addition to my time spent training at Cocoki, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to various other cooperative partners of Indego Africa. Each group of artisans possesses their own set of skills, and every woman holds a unique spirit and smile. The walls and windows of each co-op provide a backdrop of inspiration through varying color, pattern and texture.

As the language barrier makes communication difficult, I love to observe the ladies at work. From the outside looking in, I see a family. The women enjoy each other’s company, and many bring their young children to work. As a toddler sits at a sewing machine or a baby sleeps strapped to her mother’s back, it seems clear that when you empower a woman you empower a generation.

Furthermore, the work of Indego Africa offers meaningful ways to empower that extend far beyond a needle and thread. In addition to having an access to income that allows the artisans to send their kids to school and provide for their families, they also receive invaluable education, which instills confidence and encourages them to be independent businesswomen.

I feel very fortunate to have witnessed these initiatives first hand, and to have met many of the female artisans who are being positively affected by them. When you make your next purchase, know that each handmade step was done with meticulous care, and that it’s truly impacting the life of a woman in Rwanda.

want more? check out Nicole’s beautiful blog

photos courtesy of Nicole Heim
photos courtesy of Nicole Heim
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Rebuilding Through Design

#artisans, #handmade, #weaving, #impact

We’re super excited to tell you about a recent collaboration between Judith Haentjes, a Dutch product designer, and the ladies of Twiyubake—one of our first partner cooperatives.

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We’re super excited to tell you about a recent collaboration between Judith Haentjes, a Dutch product designer, and the ladies of Twiyubake—one of our first partner cooperatives. Twiyubake specializes in the art of banana leaf weaving, a complex and challenging technique. Judith, who works mainly with organic & recycled materials, embraced this challenge, collaborating with the women to create innovative new products with a distinctly geometric feel.

The women of Twiyubake are especially impressive not only for their exceptional artisanal skills, but also their backstory. The word “Twiyubake” means “to rebuild ourselves” in Kinyarwanda, and this is exactly what these women are doing. Made up of genocide widows working side-by-side with the wives of imprisoned génocidaires, this remarkable cooperative fosters unity and reconciliation in post-conflict Rwanda. Here’s what Judith had to say about working with them:

“I had the honor and pleasure to work with seven women, who are part of the Twiyubake family. I spent two weeks with them in their workspace. Together we experimented with banana leaves and developed some new products for Indego Africa. It was an absolutely touching experience for me, as they welcomed me warmly, were extremely open towards me and motivated to make the most out of the weeks.

It was definitely a new experience for both sides. Me as a European product designer travelling to the countryside of Rwanda to collaborate with women that I don’t share a language with (I had a translator) and that are culturally very different from me. And on the other side seven women from Kayonza that have a designer, a profession that they don’t fully grasp, coming to work with them. We definitely needed a warming up period with each other, but it became such a successful time because we stayed open to each other. In addition these ladies are very distinguished in their craft and have a great group dynamic, which makes it very easy to work with them. After two weeks I had learned so many things about these women’s lives and became so fond of them that it was difficult for me to leave. All of them are truly fascinating, lovely, warm and talented women.”

Photographs from Twiyubake courtesy of Judith Haentjes
Photographs from Twiyubake courtesy of Judith Haentjes
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