A traditional Rwandan basket known as agaseke symbolizes peace and love. It is also an important weapon against poverty, particularly among women living in rural areas. However, weaving baskets goes beyond putting food on the table and sending kids to school.
The art of weaving baskets brings together Rwandans from three formerly divided ethnic groups, hence fostering unity and reconciliation. The role of artisans in weaving a divided nation into a unified one is undeniable. Globally, a made in Rwanda traditional basket has become a sought after product. Basket weaving is carried out in different parts of the world but an authentic agaseke from Rwanda usually stands out from the crowd.
Agaseke exports are skyrocketing and women across the country are weaving their way out of poverty. Muteteri Grace, a beneficiary of training programs offered by the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center, credits agaseke for her current financial freedom. She is a member of an association known as Dukunde Umurimo and a trainer of aspiring artisans. She also mentors her own daughter, who in turn, is following her footsteps. “The art of weaving was conveyed to us by our mothers. It is our responsibility to relay it to our daughters.” She says.
Weaving baskets has been part of the Rwandan culture for centuries. Traditionally, agaseke is a vessel containing important items. The iconic artefact was and still is an envelop of gifts from the heart. In addition, artistically woven baskets are used to decorate homes and venues of different functions.
It is encouraging to see Rwandans preserving this precious symbolic item. Today, agaseke is accorded the recognition it deserves. A head-turning basket is mounted on top of the new headquarters of Gasabo District, the nation’s birthplace. Way before the building was constructed, agaseke was placed in the middle of Rwanda’s coat of arms.