This blog was brought to us by our partner, Indego Africa – a nonprofit organization and lifestyle brand that empowers female artisans in Rwanda.
At Indego Africa, we are all about doing good through good design. That’s why we are so excited to launch our brand new collaboration with ONE – a custom collection of pink and black mini baskets handwoven by women in Rwanda!
These vibrant pieces were made by the artisans of Imirasire – a group of 150 women who live and work in Rwanda’s rural Bugesera district. Despite their remarkable talent, for many years these artisans struggled to make ends meet. But today, through their partnership with Indego Africa (and the support of partners like ONE!), they are able to earn steady income for their work and participate in education programs which help them to become better businesswomen and entrepreneurs.
Imirasire’s artisans practice the ancient art of “agaseke” – a traditional form of basket weaving that has a rich cultural history in Rwanda. Each ONE x Indego Africa basket takes 1-2 days to make and requires a great deal of skill, precision, and patience to get just right.
For starters, the artisans must source their materials: locally grown sweetgrass, the straw-like material that forms the base of our baskets, and sisal, soft and stringy fibers from the inside of agave plants, which are dyed and wrapped around the sweetgrass to create the complete and colorful Indego look.
To dye the sweetgrass, the artisans place a big pot of water over firewood and then add salt, oil, and dye, carefully altering quantities depending on the desired hue of their final product. Once the mixture seems ready, they dip in a small piece of sisal to check for color and make adjustments before pouring in the whole batch. They then stir it with a wooden-stir-stick until all the fiber is saturated with dye and ready to be taken out for drying.
Once the sisal is dry, the artisans thread a couple of strands through a weaving needle and begin to wrap them around bunches of sweetgrass, molding and adjusting the grass as they go to create the desired shape of our products. The end result? Thickly coiled baskets that beautifully blend traditional African crafts with modern pops of color and pattern.
We are so inspired by the incredible talent of Imirasire’s artisans and excited to launch our very first ONE x Indego Africa basket! Each of these items empowers women to provide for themselves and their families, plus they’re the perfect way to add a touch of color & conscience to any space (that’s what we call a win-win!)
Learn more about Indego Africa online at indegoafrica.org