Umurage w’Agaseke, is a weaving community-based cooperative, that is made up of 30 members that make products using ancestral techniques and organic vegetal fibre with crafted colours, among other things.
Mukabaranga Esperance, a member, says the main goal is to empower women through weaving skills to cater for their needs. Beneficiaries learn different weaving techniques, pand roduce baskets, lamp shades, woven baskets, and mats, among other products.
Going forward, Esperance’s dream is to continue empowering more women and girls; to give them independence, and allow them to work from home and make money while attending to their families and communities.
Agaseke: Symbol of peace, love and prosperity
The traditional Rwandan basket is iconic. Popularly known as agaseke, this product is a symbol of peace, love and prosperity . It is also a key weapon in the war against poverty, particularly among women living in rural areas.
Weaving baskets goes beyond putting food on the table and sending kids to school. The art brings together Rwandans from three formerly divided ethnic groups, hence fostering unity and reconciliation. The role of artisans in weaving a divided nation into a unified one is undeniable.
Globally, a made-in-Rwanda traditional basket has become a sought-after product. Basket weaving is carried out in different parts of the world but an authentic agaseke from Rwanda stands out from the crowd.
To keep up with the ever-evolving market trends, weavers update their skills through regular training. Materials used are sisal fibre, banana leaves, raffia and sweet grass, among others. Apart from baskets, artisans produce an assortment of items including earrings, necklaces, wrist bands and bangles.
Weaving baskets have been part of the Rwandan culture for centuries. Traditionally, agaseke is a container of important items and an envelope of gifts from the heart. In addition, artistically woven baskets are used to decorate homes and venues of different functions.
It is encouraging to see Rwandans preserving this precious artefact. Today, agaseke is accorded the recognition it deserves. A head-turning basket is mounted on top of the headquarters of Gasabo District, the nation’s birthplace. Way before the new building was constructed, agaseke was placed in the middle of Rwanda’s coat of arms.