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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog #handmade

Introducing Handspun Knits- For Kids!

#artisans, #inspiring, #handmade, #forthebabes

We love supporting Handspun Hope, an organization that is not only changing women’s lives, but also creating 100 percent made-in-Rwanda products with a beautiful story behind every stitch.

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That's why we're excited to introduce a new line of kids' knits, made from 100 percent organic, merino wool and photographed on the granddaughters of the knitters themselves!

At the Handspun Hope cooperative in Musanze, Rwanda, women spin local sheep’s wool into 100% organic merino yarn. The artisans first clean and untangle the wool and then feed each strand into a spinning wheel, making one ply of yarn at a time. 

Once the yarn is ready, the women dye it by hand, often using local plant, flower, and vegetable material—like eucalyptus leaves, local flora, avocado, and onion skins—that they often pick on their way to work in the morning. The final result is soft, high-quality merino yarn that is naturally-made, beautifully-dyed, 100 percent organic and eco-friendly from start to finish.

Our new line of knit sweaters, vests, and accessories for kids were photographed on the farm where they were made, featuring the green hills of Rwanda, and adorable lambs and merino bunnies!

Shop our new line of handspun knits for kids here.

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Briar Handmade x Indego Africa

#collaboration, #handmade, #indegokids

We are so excited to launch a limited-edition line of hand-embroidered baby bonnets in collaboration with our friends at Briar Handmade!

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These adorable bonnets are hand-embroidered by our artisan partners at Ibaba Cooperative in Rwanda and inspired by Indego and Briar's mutual appreciation for beautiful, handmade products. We love Briar's delicate take on stylish and functional baby bonnets and are thrilled to launch this heartfelt partnership!

Stay tuned for a special interview with Briar Handmade founder, entrepreneur, and designer, Rachel Goode, on the inspiration behind our collaboration and her trip to Rwanda to meet the hardworking women artisans of Ibaba!

Shop the collection now 

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Baskets #ForTheBabes!

#collaboration, #forthebabes, #handmade

Our brand-new baby bassinets were handmade in collaboration with Design Dua—a design company that employs rural artisan women in the north of Ghana. We teamed up to create an exclusive collection of baskets, handwoven out of elephant grass and accented with pink or white leather handles. Designed with your little one in mind, these baskets are perfect for rest or for play and help support artisans in northern Ghana!

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Design Dua was founded by Coretta Owusu, a lawyer and entrepreneur with a passion for design, creativity, and social change. Coretta grew up in the United States but often traveled to Ghana to visit relatives. After graduating from college, she decided to move to Ghana and, while living there, found herself continuously inspired by the local crafts and artisan techniques she encountered.

Coretta moved back to the U.S. to attend law school but knew that her ultimate goal was to create businesses that would help drive growth in Ghana. In 2015, after launching several new enterprises in Ghana’s hospitality and travel industries, Coretta channeled her passion for design to start Design Dua. Her mission? To inspire modern families to incorporate African-inspired products into their homes and everyday lives.

Design Dua works with artisan weavers in Ghana’s northern Bolgatanga region to help them earn fair income for their beautiful artistry. When she first started, Coretta found that many of the basket weavers were not keeping track of their raw material expenses and were selling their baskets at cost without even realizing it. This practice left many women caught within a static cycle—they were unable to move forward, earn sustainable income, or build up their own businesses.

Design Dua addresses these issues by covering the cost of raw materials for the artisans and paying them fair wages for their work. Like Indego, Design Dua emphasizes teaching its partners to understand quality control, product standards, and basic business practices—skills that helps artisans become equal players in the global economy.

Coretta reached out to Indego Africa earlier this year after seeing our collaboration with Ghanaian accessories brand, A.A.K.S. Coretta was drawn to Indego’s blend of modern designs with traditional techniques, as well as our emphasis on social impact and education. 

When we asked Coretta what inspired her in her design process and day-to-day work, she said:

“I love working in Ghana and supporting marginalized women who haven’t had access to the same opportunities  as I have. These products show that Ghana has something to offer. While we may not be considered a destination for manufacturing, we have amazing crafts and artisan-made products. It inspires me to be able to put Ghana on the map through products that are high-quality, well-designed, and have a great story behind them. I try to come up with creative designs that are useful, not just  decorative, and that people can incorporate into their everyday lives.” 

We share Coretta’s mission and inspiration and are excited to launch our collaborative collection of baby bassinets, which reflect our shared love of beautifully handmade products, elegant design, empowering women and, of course, all things baby & kids! To shop and learn more about the products, click here

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Introducing Mudcloth Poufs!

#handmade, #ghana

We are so excited to announce our newest piece of decor, handmade with heart for your home! Our brand-new ottoman poufs are upholstered using indigo mudcloth, hand-dyed in Mali & sourced in Kumasi, Ghana.

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Mudcloth, or bògòlanfini in Mali’s Bambara language, is a traditional Malian and West African textile that is typically made with—you guessed it—mud. The process begins with narrow strips of cloth which are dyed in baths of leaves or bark and left in the sun to dry. Once they’re dry, the cloths are painted with fermented mud and sewn together to create intricate patterns and symbols, all with different stories, myths, and meanings behind them.

 

We love the beautifully rustic look of this West African textile, so when we expanded to Ghana, we knew we needed to add mudcloth to our line! We teamed up with a local businessman named Alhaji to help us source the fabric.

Alhaji was born in Ghana but his ancestors came from Mali. As a child, he used to travel back and forth to visit his relatives and he loved to watch them make traditional mudcloths. When he grew up, he thought there might be a market for these textiles in Ghana and began to bring them to local craft fairs to see how they did. People loved them. 

Alhaji began traveling back to Mali more regularly to buy mudcloth and eventually built a relationship with an artisan group there. When we met with him, Alhaji was excited about the opportunity to create a more consistent market for their products and the artisans were happy to work with us on custom colors and designs. 

We started by carrying indigo mudcloth on our line as a tapestry and now are using it to upholster poufs and pillows, with more items to come! We love the unique story behind this product and the significance it holds as a symbol of Malian and West African culture and history. Plus, we love supporting this time-honored technique, which is 100 percent natural and eco-friendly from start to finish!

To shop our upholstered mudcloth poufs, and bring a touch of West African design to your home, click here. 

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Handspun with Heart in the Hills of Rwanda

#artisans, #indegodiaries, #handmade

Our 2016 Pre-Fall collection is here, featuring beautiful knits handspun with heart in the hills of Rwanda!

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Our new line of hand-knit vests was made in partnership with Handspun Hope—a True Vineyards Ministries initiative that helps women in Musanze, Rwanda lift themselves out of poverty by spinning local sheep's wool into high-quality, 100 percent organic merino yarn.

Handspun Hope employs 44 women, most of whom are widows, who spin, dye, and knit locally-harvested sheep’s wool by hand at an artisan cooperative in Rwanda. The sheep are raised on a breathtaking farm, located nearby at the foot of Rwanda’s Virunga mountains. There, the sheep are cared for night and day by a devoted shepherd named Faustin.

Once every eight months, Faustin shears the sheep’s wool (a process that does not hurt the sheep in any way) and brings it to the artisans’ cooperative where the women turn it into yarn. First, they triple-wash it clean and pick out any grass or debris that may remain. They then de-tangle the wool, comb out the fibers, and feed them into a spinning wheel, making one ply of yarn at a time. 

Once the yarn is ready, the women dye it by hand using local plant, flower, and vegetable material—like eucalyptus leaves and onion skins—that they often pick on their way to work in the morning. The final result is soft, high-quality merino yarn that is naturally-made, beautifully-dyed, 100 percent organic, and eco-friendly from start to finish. 

We absolutely love the quality, texture, and rustic aesthetic of Handspun Hope’s yarn and are so excited to launch our new Pre-Fall collection, which features chunky knits, popcorn vests & more, all hand-spun, hand-dyed, and hand-knit by Handspun Hope’s artisans! 

We love supporting this organization which is not only changing women’s lives but creating 100 percent made-in-Rwanda products with a beautiful story behind every stitch.

To shop our Pre-Fall collection, click here.

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Made-in-Ghana: The Brass Edition

#inspiring, #handmade

We’re excited to bring you the second installment of our new made-in-Ghana series—a monthly blog and newsletter introducing you to the amazing handmade processes, cultural histories, and, of course, talented artisans behind our Ghana product lines! This week, we’re taking a behind-the-scenes look at our new recycled brass collection, made by hand, with heart, using the ancient art of lost-wax casting (trust us - it’s as cool as it sounds.)

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Tucked away amidst shady banana trees, in the heart of the Krofrom village, lies Krofrom Brass—the artisan workshop behind the handcrafted home décor and jewelry pieces of our new brass product collection. The Krofrom workshop is run by Akwasi Nortey, master brass craftsman and father of four, who first learned the art as a child from his own father, who learned it from his.

Metal-working runs in Akwasi’s family and the art-form has been passed down from generation to generation, starting with his great-great grandfather who was the revered jewelry-maker of the Ashanti King and Chiefs, known for crafting elaborate gold adornments to be worn during official rituals and ceremonies.  While at that time the fruits of metal-working were reserved only for those of the highest status, over the years the products became popularized and more and more people began to order and buy items made from silver, gold, and brass, which was less expensive.

Today, Akwasi helps keep the art of metal-working alive through his family business, which employs 11 people who use the ancient technique of lost-wax casting to create beautifully detailed pieces out of local recycled brass. But, you might be wondering, what does wax have to do with it? Keep reading to find out.

The whole handmade brass process, in fact, begins with wax. Step one? The artisans use beeswax to create a model of the object they would like to create. They then cover the model with a mixture of ash, palm fiber, and clay to make a protective mold (leaving an opening at the bottom.) Once the mold is dry, they place it in a pot over fire so that the beeswax inside will melt and seep out, leaving behind an empty cast of the item they wish to make. They then pour in melted brass, wait for it cool and harden, and finally crack open the mold, revealing beautifully golden shapes and designs that are then sanded and polished to become finished products.

We are in awe of this complex, magical process and the incredible handmade products that come out of it. It is a process that spans days—that involves remarkable knowledge, skill, artistry and patience to get just right—and is truly a labor of love for Krofrom’s artisans. 

One of our newest products celebrates this handmade process, as well as the aspirations of those who have made it their lives’ work. Our new Indego Africa Brass Wishbone represents the wishes, hopes, and dreams of our artisan partners, while adding a beautiful, sculptural touch to any home. 

In honor of this new product launch, we asked Akwasi about his wishes for the future—the future of his business, his family, and his community. Here’s what he shared with us: 

“I would like to make a name for myself and be well known in my community as someone who taught young people the brass-making trade and helped them gain a source of income. I would like my children who are interested in the brass business to take over and expand our workshop, and I would support them in any way possible to help them learn the trade and continue the business. I would especially like to teach my daughter all aspects of the brass trade. There are very few females in the brass business and I would like her to be one of them. In the future, I hope to provide vocational training to young people in my community and open a shop in the city center to sell the beautiful brass products we make.”

We hope you are as inspired as we are by Akwasi’s wishes and by the beautiful handmade process that he and others use to create their brass masterpieces.

To shop the Indego Africa brass collection, click here

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Where Modern Meets Traditional

#artisans, #inspiring, #handmade, #ghana

We are so excited to announce our brand-new Made-in-Ghana Series—a monthly blog and newsletter introducing you to the handmade processes, cultural histories, and, of course, talented artisans behind our Ghana collections!

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First up? The hand-carved wooden pieces of our new Modern Traditions collection. Inspired by traditional African ritual dolls, warrior masks, and Bamileke stools, the Modern Traditions collection celebrates the time-honored techniques and stories behind hand-carved wooden crafts in Ghana, while adding modern design elements and details.

 

Wood-carving has a rich cultural history in Ghana. Legend has it that in olden times a man named Akwasi Yoyo traveled to the Ashanti kingdom of Denkyira, where he learned the craft of wood-carving. After mastering these skills, he brought his finished carvings back to his hometown (which today is called “Ahwiaa”) and showed them to the King. The King was so impressed that he instructed the entire village to learn and practice the art form. Since then, this beautiful craft has been passed down from family to family, generation to generation.  

In the past, wood carving was used to create a wide range of items including: household utensils, combs, baby raddles, and furniture; drums for festivals; masks for ritual dances; figurines for religious practices; and, perhaps most significantly, the Ashanti Kings’ and Chiefs’ sacred stools. 

Indego Africa’s partner artisan group, the Ahwiaa Wood Carvers Association, carries on his legacy by continuing the practice of traditional wood-carving today. Comprised of 65 artisans, the Association is located 30 minutes north of Kumasi, which is the capital of the Ashanti region and the heart of its artisan sector (as well as the bustling home-base of Indego Africa’s Ghana operations!)

The Ahwiaa Wood Carvers are known for their incredible craftsmanship, as well as the striking intricacy of their products and designs. However, despite these remarkable skills, the Carvers are struggling to sustain their business. Given the increasing accessibility of commercial goods in Ghana, fewer and fewer Ghanaians are seeking out hand-carved wooden products for their day-to-day purchases, favoring instead more readily-available, mass-produced goods. In this shifting landscape, the art and practice of traditional Ghanaian wood-carving is at risk of dying out.

We at Indego Africa are enamored by the beauty and history of Ghana’s wood-carving tradition and are dedicated to supporting the artisans that continue to practice and preserve this craft. By partnering with the Ahwiaa Wood Carvers Association, we hope both to improve the livelihoods of Ghana’s wood carvers, as well as to create value and appreciation for their handmade craftsmanship around the world. 

Our new Modern Traditions collection features traditional African crafts and objects accented with elegant design details to create unique, storied objects that reflect the cultural history of Ghana while appealing to the design aesthetics and sensibilities of today’s modern global consumer. 

Our new Fertility, Namji, Nyamwezi, and Fali Dolls are inspired by  traditional Ashanti, Cameroonian, and Tanzanian ritual dolls that were thought to bring good luck to women trying to  conceive, as well as health and happiness to expecting mamas-to-be. Historically, women would wrap and carry these dolls on their backs as if they were children, a practice believed to induce pregnancy and ensure a safe delivery.

Our traditional Ashanti Fertility Doll is a pregnant woman carrying a baby on her back, which symbolizes a caring mother, both during pregnancy and after childbirth. These dolls have significance in each element of their design: they have a small mouth for a quiet baby, a large forehead for great intelligence, and a pregnant belly for good nutrition. We chose white beads to symbolize the innocence of the baby and love the delicate and elegant look they bring to the piece.

Our Warrior Masks are inspired by the traditional ceremonial pieces worn by Ashanti men during social and religious dance rituals. At one time, these masks were believed to bridge the gap between the spiritual and physical world, bringing the spirits of ancestors and forbearers to life. Warrior Masks were particularly significant in some of these rites, as they were meant to bring good luck to soldiers before battle. 

Our custom collection of Warrior Masks features sleek brass inlays, intricate beadwork, and beautiful cowrie shells (an ancient form of currency) to create striking, yet refined décor pieces. Designed to be hung on walls, either alone or together, our Warrior Masks will add a touch of majestic elegance to any home.

Last but not least, our Cameroonian-inspired Bamileke stools feature carved wooden animal figures, lined with white and black beading, as well as cowrie shell accents. They are truly one-of-a-kind pieces that also celebrate the long-standing Ashanti tradition of carving sacred wooden stools for the King, Queen, and Ashanti chiefs. 

We hope you love our Modern Traditions collection and the special stories, traditions, and practices it honors. To shop the products, click here

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Parents of the World: De-clutter in Style

#forthebabes, #home, #handmade

Hide Your Plastic With Indego Africa Star Baskets!

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With little ones, comes lots of...plastic. From animals, to toy trucks, and all that fun stuff, sometimes it may seem there can never be enough. For those days when you’re walking through your kiddie’s room and wondering what happened to the floor, we have the perfect solution: our newly launched star-printed fabric baskets! These ultra cute, kid-friendly pieces are a great way to hide all your plastic (plus, with two handles, they’re easy to move around.) Parents of the world: you may now de-clutter in style…
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The Art of Metal Working

#makersmonth, #indegodiaries, #handmade, #artisans

Thinking jewelry? Think tin – the unlikely yet super cool material that makes up many of the pieces on our jewelry line {and some of our home décor items, too!} We love the rustically chic look of this malleable metal, which the talented artisans of L’Etainerie de Huye artfully mold into beautiful and unexpected shapes at their workshop in Butare, Rwanda.

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Nestled amongst green pastures and lush, overhanging trees, L’Etainerie de Huye first opened its doors in 1983 with a group of 50 skilled and industrious metal workers. However, when the 1994 genocide began, the artisans of L’Etainerie were forced to flee and shut their business down. When the violence ended, there were only 10 of them left.

Some years went by and in 2003 the 10 remaining artisans decided to band together to reopen their shop and recruit and train other members of the community. Today, L’Etainerie employs 55 people and continues to spread its remarkable craft through a two-year apprenticeship program, during which time students learn the ins-and-outs of the metal working process – from material sourcing, to melting, shaping, sanding, polishing & more.

While you’ll have to travel to Rwanda to learn the little known secrets of the trade yourself, we’ve got a 101 crash course for you that – at the very least – will let you know what you’re in for. 

  • Step 1: Source the Tin. The artisans of L’Etainerie get their tin from “Phoenix Metal,” a smelter outside Kigali that locally sources all of its raw materials.
  • Step 2: Make a Mold. To create each unique tin product, the artisans place a hand-carved wooden sample (the exact same shape & size of the item!) inside a hollow frame and fill it with dirt. They then flip it over and hammer it until the dirt hardens around the sample, at which point it can be removed – leaving an empty imprint behind.
  • Step 3: Melt the Tin & Pour it Out. They then melt and liquefy the tin in an oven and pour it into the mold.
  • Step 4: Let it Cool. It only takes 1 minute for the tin to harden into its shape!
  • Step 5: Solder It, Sand It, Polish It. Now it’s time to make the tin look great – whether soldering together small pieces of metal, or sanding down and polishing products to perfection, a great deal of artistry and technique goes into making each piece smooth, shiny, and ready for use.
  • Step 7: Add Finishing Touches. When the products are polished and ready-to-go, the artisans add on any last finishing touches - like gluing on cowhorn accents or inlaying woven shapes – before the items are picked up by our production team & transported to our office in Kigali…

And voilà! Cool, unique jewelry and décor pieces that range from bold statement pendants, to elephant keepsake boxes, geometric stacking rings & more. 

In addition to the products that they make for us, L’Etainerie also has over 500 (!) molds that they use to make their own collections, which they sell right from their workshop. Their onsite store is filled to the brim with remarkably life-like and well-crafted animal figurines – from giraffes to snakes to rhinos and giraffes – in addition to a diverse range of other decorative and functional pieces.

L’Etainerie prides itself on its ability to create high-quality, well-designed, and creative products while constantly innovating to keep up with the needs of their market – primarily tourists, diplomats, and select partners {like us!} 

They are the only workshop of their kind in Rwanda – creating artisanal pieces out of pure tin – and we love the opportunity to partner with an organization that values creativity, design, and the art of the handmade just as much as we do!

To check out some of L’Etainerie de Huye’s amazing metal work, click here

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#MakersMonth: Bright Wovens

#makersmonth, #artisans, #handmade

You may have noticed already, but bright colors are kind of our thing. Okay…they’re totally our thing, and we just can’t get enough of the deep vibrant hues and electric shades of the woven baskets, platters, and catchalls that have become staples of our home décor line. But, you may be wondering: how do our artisan partners ensure that the colors come out bright, evenly and richly saturated {and the same!} every time? And how do they hand-weave these intricate beauties in the first place? Keep reading for an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into the handmade process behind our woven home décor collections!

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Our woven products are made by hand out of locally sourced natural fibers: sweetgrass {inshinge in Kinyarwanda}, the straw-like material that forms the base of our baskets, and sisal {imigwegwe}, the soft and stringy fibers of agave plants which are dyed and wrapped around sweetgrass to create the complete and colorful Indego look. 

We partner with five different weaving cooperatives in Rwanda – Imirasire, Covanya, Ibanga, Korebu, and Ingobokaruga – and while each has its own special, secret way of getting the colors just right, there are some general steps they all follow. For starters, the artisans put a big pot of water over firewood and then add salt, oil, and dye, carefully altering quantities depending on the desired hue of their final product.

Once the mixture seems ready, they dip in a small piece of imigwegwe to check for color and make adjustments before pouring in the whole batch. They then stir the sisal with a wooden stick until all the fiber is saturated with dye and ready to be taken out for drying.

Within this process, there is lots of room for improvisation, artistry, and personal touches that make each cooperative’s dyeing process unique (like adjusting water temperatures, dye quantities, and soaking durations.) At the end, however, there’s just one final result: vibrant, well-dyed and consistently-colored fibers that make for beautiful and eye-catching home décor (and jewelry!) pieces.

Once the imigwegwe is dry, the artisans thread a couple of strands through a weaving needle and begin to wrap them around bunches of sweetgrass, molding and adjusting the grass as they go to create the desired shape of our products — a process which often takes 2-3 days {or more} per item! The end results are worth it, though: thick coiled baskets and platters that beautifully blend traditional African crafts with modern pops of color and pattern – from  hot pink swirls, to black and white geometric designs, ruby red diamonds, and more.

So there you have it – the inside scoop on how our products are hand-woven with skill, patience, artistry {and love!} in Rwanda. Pretty cool, right? We certainly think so!

To shop our home décor collections (and to brighten your day - guaranteed!), click here

This post is part of our #MakersMonth — a July-long campaign celebrating the incredible artistry and skill of the master-makers who handcraft our products!  To learn more, click here

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Summer Vibes Have Arrived - Prymal x Indego

#collaboration, #summer, #handmade

Summer vibes have officially arrived with the launch of our Indego Africa x Prymal collaboration! This ultra-cool collection features iconic panama hats with a fun, socially-conscious twist: each hat is handmade by artisans in Ecuador and accented with the colorful yet delicate hand-embroidery of the Ibaba cooperative in Rwanda.

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We are so excited to partner with Prymal whose mission is to create high quality, luxurious products that strengthen Ecuador’s local economies and preserve the environment. We love their commitment to sustainability, empowerment, and beautiful artistry throughout every step of their artisan partners’ production process.

To create a panama hat by hand is a long, meticulous process that has been passed down from generation to generation in Ecuador. To get started: weavers pick out pieces of straw and cut them to the length they wish to work with. Dipping their fingers in water, they split the fiber razor thin, and weave outwards from the center of the crown using a wooden crown form as support {the greatest weavers work only by the light of the moon or when the sky is overcast.} 

Once woven, each hat has four to six inches of loose straw remaining around the brim. This excess is then woven backwards, forming a thin but strong band around the brim. 

To give the hat its final, classic shape, artisans use either an iron over a wooden form or a steam hydraulic machine in a process called “blocking.” Last but not least, an internal band is sewn into the hat and a decorative  trim – in this case, hand-embroidered by artisans in Rwanda! - is attached before it’s ready for final sale.

The final product? A timeless yet vibrant hat that mixes empowerment with chic & effortless style, from the white sandy beaches of Ecuador to the rolling green hills of Rwanda. Now that’s what we call a win-win.

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Introducing ISANO - Loomed with Love

#impact, #artisans, #handmade, #indegodiaries

We are so excited about the launch of our spring scarf collection - not only because we love the color & feel of these woven beauties, but also because we are deeply inspired by the story behind them.

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This collection was made by ISANO – a cooperative of 12 talented young people in Rwanda, all of whom are affected in some way by HIV/AIDS. The group was started in 2013 by Rwandan-born teenager, Celine Mudahakana, who was at the time a high school student living in the U.S. In the summer of 2012, Celine returned to Rwanda to volunteer with CHABHA (Children Affected By HIV/AIDS), a nonprofit that partners with community-based organizations in Rwanda and Burundi to support young people affected by AIDS and poverty. Witnessing the difficult circumstances in which teenagers her own age were living, Celine felt compelled to do something more.

The following year, while taking a weaving class at her high school in Vermont, Celine had an idea: if she could teach vulnerable young people in Rwanda how to weave too, she could help them to develop a valuable skill and, in turn, earn an income. From there, ISANO was born.

Over the course of the next few months, Celine worked tirelessly to raise money for her cause, which she did, in part, by weaving her own scarves and selling them to people in her community. Eventually, with the help of friends and family, she raised enough funds to purchase four eight-harness looms for her artisan project and to cover the costs of a trip to Rwanda for herself and her classmates to use their weaving skills to make a difference.

Celine helped to develop a new vocational training program under CHABHA’s Project Independence initiative, from which 12 young people were chosen to participate. All of them were not in school, despite being of school age – most had been forced to drop out after primary school because their parents could not afford to pay the school fees. Without education or income-earning opportunities, these young adults & their families were living a life of abject poverty.

Celine set out on a mission to change that. Over the course of several weeks, she and her classmates taught these students how to weave using foot-looms - a skill which they picked up quickly and with much enthusiasm. Two years later, the artisans of ISANO are masterful weavers, creating beautifully crafted fabrics, scarves, wall hangings & more.

We are so thrilled to be able to partner with a cooperative like this which is not only creating products we love, but is also part of a larger mission to change the future for young people affected by HIV/AIDS. This disease continues to be an epidemic in many parts of Rwanda, and we are honored to work with these brave young people who are showing others that they too can take ownership of their futures.

Celine is thrilled at all the progress that the members of ISANO have made. Over the past two years, she says, they have gone from being shy to exuberantly confident and have developed valuable business and leadership skills along the way. Her goal for them is to: “become economically stable, earn a steady income, and escape from poverty,” she says. “I want them to influence other generations and to bring more people into this project and other projects like these so that all young people who do not have opportunities can have the chance to become financially independent.”

We couldn’t agree more & are so excited to continue to work with and support ISANO and CHABHA in the years to come, helping more young people to develop life-changing skills. We hope you’ll show your support too! 

Shop the ISANO scarf collection and Indego spring here

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Crazy for Cowhorn: Indego Africa x Olivia Knox

#artisans, #collaboration, #impact, #handmade, #africa

If you haven’t noticed already: we’re crazy for cowhorn – its versatility, natural variation, and stark, organic beauty. It looks like you love it too because – due to growing demand for our cowhorn products – we recently began partnering with Uganda-based cowhorn supplier, Olivia Knox, to bring you more of this stunning material!

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Olivia Knox, founded by Olivia Byanyima and Shanley Knox, ethically manufactures products made out of Ankole cowhorn with the dual goal of bringing East African craftsmanship to luxury and lifestyle markets and conserving the indigenous Ankole cow, which is at risk of becoming extinct.

Ankole cows are known for their magnificent horns and are central to the rich culture and history of Uganda’s Bahima tribe, to which Olivia belongs. She says: 

“My people came from the horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Egypt, Somalia – nobody really knows. We migrated with our cows, looking for greener pastures. Our whole life revolved around this cow. It’s a distinct breed - with the largest horns of all the bovine species. We revere it. You find it every aspect of our lives. Our song and poetry. Our dance. If a women has beautiful eyes, you tell her her eyes look like those of a newborn cow – innocent and pure.” 

Despite the historically important role of Ankole cows, Ugandan farmers have begun to crossbreed the species with western cows that produce more milk, and thus, are more economically lucrative. These new cows have increasingly smaller, more brittle horns, and as the crossbreeding process continues, may cease to have horns all together.  

Olivia Knox is working to reverse that. By building market demand for Ankole cowhorn, Olivia Knox is seeking to create economic value for the cows and for the farmers who choose to keep their breeds pure. The stakes of this project are high, Olivia says, “If these cows become extinct, my culture will go with them.” 

Olivia, while raised in Kampala, spent much time growing up on her father’s ranch in Western Uganda where he had 1,500 cows – each of which, she says, he knew by name. While the personal and cultural symbolism of Ankole cows is deeply important to her, so also is the material itself. “It has a natural finish,” she says, “and it doesn’t need be glossed. How many other natural materials can you say that about? The color range is unbelievable – from black to ivory – every piece is different. No one else can ever have the same piece you have.”

We too cannot get enough of cowhorn’s unique and stunning color variations. From pieces that evoke deep amber sunsets to dark smoky nights, the range is striking and truly beautiful. Were Ankole cows to die out it would not only be a loss for Uganda, but for the rest of the world, which would no longer be able to experience the lustrous beauty of their horns. 

Olivia Knox is dedicated not only to conserving the Ankole cow species, but also to empowering the communities in which it works. While at the moment Shanley & Olivia partner with a local factory to manufacture their products, they plan to open up a factory of their own in the near future and to hire local Ugandan women to work there. Olivia Knox's commitment to entrepreneurship, empowerment and cultural appreciation fits right in with our mission and we are proud to betheir partner!

Click here to shop our cowhorn collection and here to learn more about Olivia Knox.

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The Peace Basket

#artisans, #inspiring, #inspiration, #new, #weaving, #handmade, #community, #peace, #hope

We recently added traditional Rwandan peace baskets to our home decor collection. In addition to being unique and beautiful items, these baskets also have a poignant history that make them all the more special.

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Following the genocide in Rwanda, women were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered country. In order to provide for themselves, their families, and the countless orphans left in the destruction's wake, many banded together to form artisan cooperatives {like the incredible ones we partner with today}.

Women who had been caught on both sides of the country’s violence – both Hutus & Tutsis – came together to make traditional Rwandan baskets, which have since earned the title of “peace baskets.” By working and weaving together, these women were able to overcome their tragic pasts and foster peace, hope, and reconciliation in the face of enmity and despair.

To this day, peace baskets are a powerful symbol in Rwanda. They represent the generosity, compassion, and forgiveness that have helped this country to rise from its ashes towards a brighter future.

Shop Peace Baskets >>>

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#PSxIndegoAfrica

#artisans, #inspiring, #new, #handmade, #art, #collaboration, #psxindegoafrica, #diy

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our much-anticipated collaboration with P.S.- I made this… - the innovative lifestyle brand founded by Erica Domesek whose mission is to inspire and empower people around the globe to cultivate their inner-creativity and embrace the ever-growing do-it-yourself (DIY) way of life.

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Today the fruits of this crazy-cool & creative partnership can be found for sale on our website: a vibrant, fun, and vividly colored collection of hand-embroidered patches! These iron-on DIY dreams come in sets of two and include inspiration from P.S.- I made this… on how to transform the patches into wearable embellishments on backpacks, sweatshirts, pouches, and more.

The patch collection was inspired by Erica’s passion for vivid color, bold objects and beautiful animals along with our love for Rwanda’s rich culture and landscape. This summer, Erica had the chance to see Rwanda’s rolling green hills, radiant sunsets, and colorful wildlife for herself when she traveled there to meet our local team and visit our partner cooperatives!

Erica, along with Babs Burchfield of Conscious Commerce (the guide to conscious living she co-founded with Olivia Wilde), spent three jam-packed and fun-filled days in Rwanda. Highlights of the trip included ordering custom-made batik jackets at Cocoki, learning how to weave at AJ, and seeing the PSxIndegoAfrica collection come to life in the hands of the talented artisans of IBABA! 

On the last day, Erica taught a class to fourteen of our artisan partners on creativity, branding, and starting your own business. The women were enthralled by P.S.- I made this…’ story and eager to flip through the pages of Erica’s most recent DIY book, P.S.- You’re Invited. There was such spirited dialogue following the class that our Country Director, Rosine, had to cut the conversation short to make sure Erica didn’t miss her flight! Participants left that day feeling inspired by how much they could accomplish with the knowledge, skills, and creativity they already had. 

"Witnessing the process of my illustrations come to life stitch by stitch before my eyes in Rwanda by the women was incredible. The time, heart and soul the IBABA artisans dedicated to each patch was the purest form of craftsmanship.

Indego Africa is doing amazing things where they strive to educate and employ the women of the cooperatives. Never has an organization opened my eyes and put a lens on DIY in such a beautiful and inspiring way. It's an honor to be apart of their organization and spread our colorful mission for good!" – Erica Domesek 

This feeling of self-empowerment is central to the P.S.-I made this… mission and one of the reasons that we love their work as much at we do. At Indego, we are all about empowering women – through economic opportunities, education, and the handmade process itself. We believe that there is something distinctly special and powerful about seeing a product from start to finish - about putting in passion, artistry, creativity, love, and inspiration, and coming away with a unique item that is self-made and totally awesome.

We hope that our patch collection will inspire you to get down and DIY - transforming everyday items into new, bold, and beautiful pieces. We can't wait to see what you come up with! Grab your favorite patch set here!

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The Art of The Stitch

#artisans, #inspiring, #handmade, #art, #new, #sneakpeek

On Thursday, June 19th we’re celebrating the art of the stitch – and you’re invited! As you may have noticed by now, we are obsessed with the beautiful hand-embroidery of IBABA – a cooperative of 28 women artisans in Rutongo, Rwanda.

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The women of this area initially learned the art of embroidery in the 1970s from a group of Belgian nuns that, eager to provide young women with a source of income, established an embroidery training center and workshop there. For years, the workshop flourished, at one point employing over 300 women artisans. However, its success came to an abrupt end in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide ravaged life in the region and forced the cooperative to disband.

In 2012, the Rutongo embroidery workshop opened its doors again and we could not be happier that it did. Under the leadership of two passionate and determined French sisters, Véronique and Pascale, the workshop – now known as IBABA – is back and better than ever.

The ladies of IBABA can hand-embroider anything – and we mean ANYTHING. It all starts with a design – be it a flamingo, flower, or feather – which the artisans lightly sketch on Belgian linen secured in an embroidery hoop. Once the threads are chosen, the long & complex process of tightly stitching them together begins. It requires an immense degree of focus, precision, and skill, and the finished products are often so good, they appear to be screen-printed! 

We are consistently amazed by the intricate and vibrant work from IBABA – so much so that we chose to put a frame on it! On June 19th we will be celebrating the launch of our framed embroidery collection at the William Holman Gallery in NYC (65 Ludlow St) from 6-9 PM. Come revel in the art of the stitch with us – tickets available here

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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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Let’s Get Up Close & Indego This Year

#africa, #handmade

A new year means new beginnings.

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New ideas that inspire, new goals that glisten, and new hope that spreads like wildfire.

We can’t wait to share new things with you this year. Whether it’s trendy new products, exciting new brand collaborations, or new stories about the incredible women artisans we partner with, we hope you’ll read all about it right here.

It’s time to get Up Close and Indego this year.

But before we say hello to 2014, we want to take a moment to reflect on all of the amazing things that happened in 2013.

This past year we:

Thank you to all our supporters, customers, donors and friends who helped us make all this and more happen in 2013! Now on to the next!

with love from New York City & Kigali,

Indego Africa

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