I’ve mentioned several times that I love handicrafts and artisan goods. Part of the reason is that 99.9% of the time, the items directly improve someone’s way of life. The Rwanda Path to Peace baskets, available exclusively at select Macy’s locations, are no different.
These works of art are woven, by hand, by master weavers from the famed Gahaya Links Association in the Gitarama region. The 500 female weavers directly benefit from the sale of these baskets. The baskets are traditional Rwandan patterns and designs that have been created in modern colors for today’s aesthetic.
One of the questions that has come up was in regard to how much compensation the women actually receive. I have to admit – it was something that I was curious about as well. The women of Rwanda receive 1/3 of the retail price of the goods. That is a remarkable amount! Heck, a lot of companies that sell wholesale don’t get that kind of return!
With the money made from the Rwanda Path to Peace program, they are able to improve their own lives, as well as the lives of their children. Many of the women use the funds generated to pay for school tuition, supplies, and even food and kerosene for their homes. I was also astonished to learn that the co-op, where most of the hand goods are sold, is also run by women. Even in matriarchal societies, it’s fairly uncommon for women to run the businesses.
Depending on the area where the baskets are made, the materials could include banana leaf, sisal, sweet grass, and papyrus. I found that to be really interesting. I had just assumed that the baskets were all made from the same materials.
Macy’s was generous enough to send me one of these gorgeous bowls in the Golden Sun pattern. I’m loving the color combo of yellow and grey these days, so this was just perfect! The bowl is super sturdy and smells really good. It’s not one of those overpowering scents that some fair trade items tend to have. You can only smell the sweet grass if you hold it up to your nose.
The hand-dyed sisal, which has been carefully stitched into the intricate pattern, is smooth. Until I watched the video, I wasn’t even sure what they had used and thought that it might have been some kind of textile fiber – like a cotton-type plant. You can really see each and every stitch that has been taken to make these bowls. There are literally tens of thousands of stitches to create the pattern – it’s amazing!
The Rwandan women not only weave the baskets, they also harvest the plant matter, clean it, dye it, and prepare everything for the baskets. Talk about a ton of work!
I think this bowl would look amazing filled with lemons, citrus fruit or apples & pears. I also think it would be fantastic filled with Christmas ornaments, but I don‘t have little hands to worry about. If you’d rather hang this piece of art, there is a hanging loop sewn in to the back of the basket.
Be sure to check out the Macy’s blog where you can read several interviews with the Rwanda Path to Peace weavers and watch some amazing videos.