#madewithheart | Rutongo, Rwanda
HAND-CRAFTED IN RWANDA
In the seventies, an embroidery training centre and workshop was established in Rutongo, Rwanda by a group of Belgian nuns. The centre provided training and employment to help young women in the village provide a source of income for their families, with the project becoming a significant contributor to sustainable, socio-economic empowerment for many years.
Drawing from Belgian and French traditions in needlecraft and textiles, the embroiderers developed an unparalleled know-how for their craft, with their skill and professionalism winning praise well beyond Rwanda's borders. To support their fine craftsmanship the finest European materials were imported, such as Belgian linen and French threads, which further strengthened the signature Rutongo mark of quality.
At its best, the workshop enrolled more than 300 embroiderers.
In 1994, after the Rwandan genocide, the enterprise tragically came to an end further impacting and disrupting an already fragile and vulnerable community. Whilst the skills remained in the hands of a small number of craftswomen who remained in the community, for years it was lost as a memory from more prosperous and free times.
In 2012, the project was re-born by two French sisters with a shared passion for Rwanda and the craft legacy that had almost been forgotten. Today, the craftswomen continue their embroidering traditions through collaborations with leading designers from around the world, providing a colourful and skilful interpretation of contemporary design with a distinct Rwandan flair and vibrancy.
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