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.”