For our latest collection, we have partnered with an amazing organization in Rwanda and Uganda that works with artisans in rural villages to provide education, job training and fair wages. By providing more than just commerce to artisan groups, our partners are promoting self-sufficiency and sustainable development to these women entrepreneurs.
Our artisan partners in East Africa specialize in baskets, which are created by hand. Each basket is handmade using a complex and meticulous process that produces vibrant colors and intricate designs. The artisan crafts each piece using a needle and thread to wrap hand-dyed strands of sisal around bunches of fragrant sweetgrass. The result is a tightly coiled, durable basket that takes several days to complete.
Behind the Symbols
Baskets carry heavy symbolism in Rwanda and Uganda, where they are given to friends to celebrate life’s great events, such as weddings, births, graduations and other noteworthy achievements. Baskets are proudly displayed in East African homes as symbols of the wealth of friends and family. Many of the artisan members of the cooperative view baskets are status symbols, as weaving has allowed them to bring a steady income to their families.
Many designs in Rwandan and Ugandan basketry feature powerful recurring symbols that tell stories of the lives of the weavers. The bold, pointed pattern on these coasters, for example, is known as the “dancer.” It references the sharp movements and brilliant costumes of East African dancers, who spin in circles to a prominent drum beat. A traditional form of storytelling, Rwandan dance is a form of expression and gratitude for nature’s gifts.
The bold burst pattern on this set of coasters is often referred to as the “Hope” design. The sunburst symbol, which is also reflected on the Rwandan flag, stands for the nation’s hope for a brighter future. Other basket designs conjure friendship, unity, and the land’s beautiful landscape, which is often referred to as the “land of a thousand hills.”
We are so happy to partner with this incredible organization that is committed to alleviating poverty in rural Africa. Every purchase directly supports our artisan partners and provides a steady income to support their families.