We've been so touched by the response to our Indego Africa collaboration! As you might know, we produced this collection in Rwanda (read part one of three blog posts) and it's by far one of our favorites.
Now, we want to segue our series to talk about the artisans and the incredible craftsmanship that went into these hand-embroidered heirlooms!
Can you describe the artisan community?
Indego Africa partners with 27 different groups, and the artisan community that we worked with was a group of about 30 women at Ibaba Cooperative in Rutongo, Rwanda. This cooperative actually has quite a bit of history behind it beginning with the women of Rutongo learning the art of embroidery from Belgian nuns. After the genocide in 1994, the group was forced to disband, but was reunited in 2011 when two French sisters helped them come together again and reopen their workshop. These women are mostly mothers who are providing for their family!
What is the environment like?
The embroidery cooperative is about an hour outside the city in a hillside village. Here, the women live at a communal house so they don’t have to commute home every day. There are several rooms in the workshop, although we saw a lot of women working outside whether sitting on chairs outside the workshop rooms or on the grass under the trees. The setting is very peaceful, serene, and not to mention beautiful.
Who helped guide you on your trip?
We were very fortunate be guided by Indego’s production manager Chantal while in Kigali. Having a local translator was tremendously helpful. Chantal was so gracious; she showed us the best Brochettes in Kigali, helped us navigate through the city and villages, and advocated for us when needed. As a mom of a young child (and another on the way!), we chatted about things like the cultural differences and similarities in child-rearing and foods our kids liked to eat. She was the perfect companion to our family and I hope to meet her again someday.
What kind of artistry did these artisans bring to Briar?
When it came to designing the embroidery for the bonnets, I really wanted to choose something that would showcase the craftsmanship of the artisans. The artisans do anything from small outlined stitches, to lifelike murals that take two women at least one month to finish! I envisioned embroidery along the brim of our bonnets and was really drawn to a couple of the floral samples I saw. After hearing my initial thoughts, Indego Africa’s Creative Director Deirdre King worked with Ibaba to begin creating samples.
In terms of craftsmanship, their work is flawless. The back looks nearly as good as the front, and the quality of everything from thread type to execution of the pattern is outstanding.
To simply put, we are so proud of this collaboration. Your support truly helped make this possible.