Crocheting is one of the world’s oldest crafts and unsurprisingly, a relic of Rwanda’s history.
And to nudge it’s acceptance in modernity, Alice Lisa Tuyishime is one of the few creatives seeking a path for its revamping, as well as tracing its ancient societal value.
At Urubohero Ethical Fashion, a shop at Kimihurura in Kigali, Ms Tuyishime and a few women weave away. At first sight of the crafts adorning the shop’s entrance and interior, one is blown away by the bags, dresses, scarves, table mats, sweaters, and dolls that they make.
But more riveting is the craftsmanship behind these exquisite items. Locally termed Ububoshyi, crocheting was for making Agaseke (basket), Umusego (mat) and larger tasks like grass-thatching of houses.
However, the introduction of advanced crocheting entailed weaving using thread and needles, but this has in recent years been overshadowed by modern clothing trends.
Ms Tuyishime, who founded the shop recalls her early passion for weaving drawing from childhood experience and would just make items for fun.
In 2018, she bought a crochet needle and balls of thread worth Rfw2,000 ($2) made herself a bag, which she carried to Trinity Chapel church in Kibagabaga. To her surprise, she was approached by three women, who were astonished by the bag’s craftsmanship and commissioned her for similar bags.
She later received more orders as demand and word of mouth spread her fame. To cope, she recruited 30 women, as they made and sold mainly to church members.
From mere basket weavers, she introduced crocheting and in the process learned a lot and was motivated into reaching out to many more.
This number has since last year increased to 300 women, with most being out of Kigali. Tuyishime has trained and guided them into producing products.
“We are still hunting for the markets, but also encourage them to grow a savings culture,” she told Rwanda Today.
With her work mainly working with vulnerable women, she sought to first get to know about them, “Some barely know how to read and had no skill in modern-age weaving,” Tuyishime says.
“I was in search of something that can easily be learned, yet doesn’t require a lot of initial capital for investment,” she recalls. Tuyishime opted for weaving.
Ms Tuyishime’s drive and desire to work with girls and women was inspired through her past jobs. In 2009 she worked with PSI Rwanda, where she encountered prostitutes. She later got a job with a project under the Ministry of Agriculture in 2012, where she worked with vulnerable women.
She later joined Youth with a Mission Rwanda until 2015 before enrolling for further studies.