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Behind the Material: Sweetgrass

Behind the Material: Sweetgrass

As our brand expands, so too does our investment in the ethical and sustainable production of our products. It’s not just about sustaining the earth, but local communities, heritage crafts, and time-honored traditions.

Sweetgrass, roughly making up 40% of our raw material use, is a locally-grown and gathered natural fiber widely used by female weavers across Africa. The abundance of raw sweetgrass in Rwanda has made it an integral element of the long-practiced craft of basket-weaving and an important part of the country’s culture. Rwandan women are taught how to weave baskets from their mothers and grandmothers, carrying on a tradition that has been passed down from one generation to another.  

Our signature sweetgrass baskets are both a celebration of traditional Rwandan weaving using locally-sourced, natural materials, and a direct collaboration with artisans who benefit from Indego’s market-driven approach to women’s empowerment.  

Sisal, roughly making up 13% of our raw material use, is a sustainable natural fiber carefully cultivated from the agave plant’s long, green leaves. Known for its strength, durability, and texture, sisal is extracted, sun-dried, brushed, and baled by local farmers across Rwanda before becoming consciously-crafted into handwoven baskets and bags. Because sisal groves generate mostly organic waste, leftover materials are used to support rural economies by producing animal feed, electricity, and fertilizer.  

Practicing a time-honored Rwandan weaving technique, artisans use a needle and thread to carefully wrap hand-dyed strands of sisal around bundles of locally-harvested sweetgrass. By dyeing the sisal fibers by hand, artisan makers create precise color combinations and nuanced patterns for weaving. From harvesting sweetgrass to hand-dyeing sisal, weaving is a complex process that passes through countless hard-working hands. Each basket takes three to five days of meticulous handwork for one woman to complete.

For Indego Africa, our commitment to slow production is deeply ingrained in our mission to empower artisan women in Africa. We collaborate with our artisan partners to create products that support their incredible talent, showcase the storied history and beautiful craftsmanship of traditional African artistry, and celebrate Indego’s dedication to high-quality, modern design.