1 You may recall my blog from last July when I visited the International Folk Art Market in Sana Fe, New Mexico.
2 This is my friend, Janet Nkubana, at The Folk Art Market. This past September, I traveled to Rwanda, to attend her daughter, Lucy's wedding.
3 These are some of the beautiful baskets that are woven in Rwanda by women cooperatives. I was anxious to finally have the opportunity to meet these weavers and to observe their weaving techniques.
4 You may recall that I met Janet’s niece, Sara, at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and I was pleased to learn that Sara would also be in Rwanda to attend her cousin’s wedding.
5 This was the start of the wedding ceremony, held one week prior, planned by the bride's family. Lucy looked beautiful walking with her mother. I arrived in time to attend the second ceremony, which is the religious service.
6 The religious service was planned by the groom’s family. Lucy and her new husband, Hassan, wore traditional African outfits. Behind are mother and aunts of the bride - three sisters - Josephine, Janet, and Joy.
7 These remarkable sisters, Joy and Janet, looked beautiful at the wedding.
8 Chantal is a very close friend of the family and was a total joy to be around during my stay. She is the perfect example of a great girl friend. She and Joy looked striking in their vibrant blue outfits.
9 After the wedding ceremony, African dancers dressed in colorful costumes entertained the guests.
10 The wedding cake display was remarkable. There were several layers and separate cakes. It's a tradition for the bride and groom to deliver a plate of cake to each of the guest tables.
11 When the wedding festivities were over, I wanted to visit other projects that are assisting the Rwanda people, their businesses, communities, and environment.
12 I visited Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, which means 'a place to dry one's tears and live in peace.' I've been a supporter of this village for the past four years and was excited finally see it.
13 This lovely residential community of 32 houses, provides a safe and secure village, home, and school for youth who were orphaned during and after the genocide of 1994. Each house can accommodate 16 children and a house-mother.
14 By Dec. 2011, 500 will be living in the village and going to school. This project was the vision of Anne Heyman and her husband, Seth Merrin. You can read more about this amazing project by visiting http://www.asyv.org
15 4 greenhouses have been built near the high school and I observed the children working in them. Their farm produces fruits and vegetables, providing a large portion of the Village's daily food needs. There is also a flock of 200 hens.
16 In the community center, there is a stage for the childrens' performances. There is also a music education program and I observed students playing guitar in the music recording center.
17 I was pleased to visit the crafts and sewing center, where several girls were constructing tote bags.
18 I also visited the training center for Gahaya Links in Kigali, a colorful and friendly space.
19 Women come to the training center to hone their skills at Rwanda's ancient basket weaving tradition and to learn new designs and create new products.
20 There are several experienced weavers who are present to assist the new trainees.
21 After seeing the training center, Janet took me to visit one of the cooperatives. Here is Janet with the president of this group of women. She was very proud of the baskets made by the weavers in her cooperative.
22 This building was provided by the Rwanda government. You can sense strong teamwork and camaraderie here. The women send their children off to school, tend to their homes and gardens, and then weave in the afternoon.
23 This woman was working on intricately woven beaded jewelry and I was amazed at the fine details of some of the weaving, as sections of the jewelry were formed.
24 Janet has 5 children and this is her youngest, Vanessa, age 12, who has already decided that she would like to become a doctor. Vanessa joined us for a visit to another cooperative in a small village called Gitarama, in the Southern Province.
25 It was here, under a tree, where Janet and Joy met with the first group of 20 women to start their cooperative program. As we drove into the pasture, sitting on the hill under the same tree were more than 60 women!
26 After greeting the women, Janet and the Cooperative President commenced the meeting with a lot of enjoyable laughter. Everyone was very anxious to hear about Lucy’s wedding.
27 Proudly dressed in her Santa Fe International Folk Art Market t-shirt was Pricille Kankindi, a master weaver, who traveled to Santa Fe with Janet, where she demonstrated her weaving skills at the market. It was great seeing her again.
28 Janet had invited a gentleman from a bank in Kigali, to speak to the weavers about their ability to have a savings account and the importance of saving. It was very enlightening to these women, who now have an income to manage.
29 In this area of Rwanda there are more than 1,000 weavers. Seeing this gathering of women was the highlight of my trip.
30 I so enjoyed observing these young women enjoying their time together.
31 Their outfits were so vibrant. The woman in the foreground brought one of her finished baskets, which she carried in a colorful cloth bag.
32 Throughout the meeting, much information was exchanged and many humorous stories were shared.
33 These young women thoroughly enjoyed spending the afternoon together and I had so much pleasure photographing their beautiful faces.
34 During the meeting more weavers arrived. These three women came separately and wore colorful outfits that complemented each other.
35 When the weavers complete their baskets, they bring them to the cooperative president for recording and payment.
36 Before turning in her basket, this woman proudly showed it to me. It is, indeed, a masterpiece.
37 I was shown another beautiful basket, with striking design and colors. These baskets are made from sisal plants and sweet grass grown naturally in Rwanda.
38 During the meeting, several women worked on their craft. They are all so proud that their weaving skills provide an income for their families.
39 This woman was really concentrating on her basket design. A basket can take three to four days to complete.
40 These young women were nearly finished with their basket designs. Each completed basket is labeled with the weaver’s name.
41 At the close of the meeting, the women stood and began to sing and dance in celebration.
42 After experiencing so much hardship during the genocide, it was delightful to watch these woman really enjoying themselves. I easily joined them in their dance.
43 This woman was lovely with her strand of pearls.
44 All the bright colors enhanced this festive occasion.
45 With so many images of African mothers struggling with famine, drought, and war, it was so inspirational to see the women of Rwanda so healthy and vibrant with self-confidence and empowerment.
46 They spoke to Janet about their goals to continue their education and their strong desires to learn how to use computers.
47 It is my goal to assist them with these aspirations.
48 It's rewarding to see them developing their own voices.
49 The healing and success story of Rwanda after 1994 can be seen in the healthy and happy faces of the children.
50 With this new generation, the Rwanda population will be stronger and better educated.
51 Little girls, like the ones in the next few photographs, will have opportunities and self-esteem that their mothers and fathers have committed themselves to make available for them.
52 So sweet
53 So precious