SUBMITTED BY TONIA MARIE HARRIS
One woman leaves behind her home and treks through forest and mountain, another with children of her own takes in orphans; both women are two of over three-hundred women employed and empowered by WomenCraft. They come from the countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their stories may be rife with violence and the soul-severing plight of those caught in the crossfire of ethnic animosity, but they prevail, quite literally creating a new life with their hands, talent, and the art of weaving passed down from matriarch to matriarch.
WomenCraft first came to fruition in 2017, partnered with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Their mission is based on approaching the crisis in good faith, providing income for women, giving them the opportunity to inspire their own communities, and galvanize the world with their tenacity and talent.
Kara Hook, Global Sales Contact for this socio-economic enterprise, tells us, “WomenCraft works together with women’s groups to design, produce and export a distinctive line of hand-woven basketry, combining natural fibers with the vibrant materials of the region. WomenCraft fuses traditional weaving techniques with a modern aesthetic to create high-quality home decor items from sustainable natural materials. Our business model creates economic opportunities for women and contributes to a positive social change in post-conflict communities in East Africa.”
The female entrepreneurs’ work combines tradition from the tri-border of Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda. The papyrus and star grass, gathered from regional river beds, are weaved using the same tools their ancestors used in villages in their home countries. Recycled grain sacks and brown banana bark artfully engage color, the intricate process requires weaving the local vegetation hundreds of times. A single wall hanging can take up to nine days to choreograph, a single table mat takes three days of this precise and patient skill.
“WomenCraft will be exhibiting modern fair-trade home decor from Tanzania handwoven by Tanzanian, Rwandan and Burundian Artisans. The product range is comprised of Bowls, Mats, Storage Baskets and decorative Wall hangings in three distinctive Signature Collections and one Feature Collection,” Hook says of the collections that will be on display.
These Collections: The Monochrome Signature Collection, Kitenge Signature Collection, and The Refugee Feature Collection, made by the women of the Mtendeli Camp, will be exhibited for potential buyers at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource August 12-15 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
For more information and to buy products, please visit: www.womencraft.org