Art of Rwandan Women Joins Circle of Sisters at Javits Center in NYC October 17-18, 2015

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During October 17-18, 2015 Rutongo Embroideries LLC will present a unique collection of textile art from Rwanda at the Circle of Sisters Expo at the Javits Center.

These self-taught artists deserve recognition.

Rutongo Embroideries LLC presents a unique collection of textile art from Rwanda at the Circle of Sisters Expo at the Javits Center during October 17-18, 2015. The collection consists of vibrant fine art textiles that depict scenes of Rwandan culture and East African flora and fauna created by women who have survived the 1995 Genocide Against the Tutsis in Rwanda. They hail from both sides—Hutu and Tutsi—and they work together in peace as part of the reconstruction and reconciliation that characterizes modern Rwanda.

It began in 2010 when Juliana Meehan, a New Jersey educator touring Rwanda, discovered Mode Savane, a shop that sold these extraordinary embroideries. Meehan recognized the superior quality of their work began an effort to support the artists by exhibiting and selling their work in the USA.

The textile workshop was founded by Christiane Rwagatare, a Rwandan who lived much of her early life in exile because of Rwanda’s political turmoil. Upon returning to Rwanda following the 1994 Genocide that claimed the lives of more than 800,000 men, women, and children, Rwagatare discovered a group of village women selling small embroidery for their livlihood. Noticing their skill and desiring to help in Rwanda’s reconstruction, Rwagatare conceived the idea of a workshop where they might create full-size fine art textiles.

Rwagatare announced that anyone interested in working in an “embroidery cooperative” should come to the local church at a designated time. More than 100 women answered the call. Regrettably, she could only take fifteen with the best embroidery skills. That was the start of the “Savane Rutongo-Kibuye” workshop.

Their technique involves loading three different colors of thread onto one needle, producing subtle blends of colors that bring their compositions to life. Each unique piece requires three months of meticulous effort.

Meehan explained, “One woman was just about to get married when her young man was killed in the genocide. Other artisans are widows, some are the children of survivors, and some of them still have men in prison.”

Since discovering them in 2010 and undertaking to sell their work in the United States, Meehan has seen their wages rise.

All sales support the Savane Rutongo-Kibuye workshop. According to Meehan, “I have exhibited their works in the New York metropolitan area, in Washington DC, and in Columbus, Ohio. These self-taught artists deserve recognition.”

About the Curator - Juliana Meehan
Meehan teaches middle-school English in Bergen County, NJ, and holds degrees in English literature and anthropology.

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