The world has had a specific image displaced upon it of Africa, in general, and more so of specific countries within the continent. Rwanda has suffered its fair share of atrocities, so when something spectacular emerges from the region, we celebrate it with heightened fervency. Savane Rutongo-Kabuye is a Rwandan workshop that focuses on textiles as art. Founded in 1997 by Christiane Rwagatare from the ashes of the 1994 genocide, a former Rwandan exile herself, the workshop has seen its founding member and their 15-all-women workshop progress from strength to strength.
Originally published on WePresent by WeTransfer, the story of Savane Rutongo-Kabuye is one similar in its core thread of a long-lost African returning home to do one thing only to discover the magic they knew nothing of and build their lives moving forward around that magic. Christiane’s story is not that much different. On a trip to visit a relative, she encountered women selling hand embroidered linen. With hope and possibility overwhelming, she knew what she had to do.
Fast-forward some time and a fated visit from US educator, Juliana Meehan, the Savane Rutongo-Kabuye workshop has subsequently had its creations exhibited in the States. “The process of creating a piece is When it comes to signing the work collectively, it’s because it’s such a collaborative process. The choice not to include their own names and the rejection of individual plaudits speaks to the strength of the bond and to the sense of community that has been built over these two decades.”
The textiles are vibrant, almost alive, hosting a vast array of depth and sincerity. As it may be partly considered a distraction from the remnants of their country’s history, the textiles also speak of a narrative of everyday Rwandans who are embracing life, moving forward and living in the richness of what they have. The works, in a way, almost exoticise the normality of life in the country now.