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ancien atelier de broderie à Rutongo au Rwanda

History of the Rutongo embroidery workshops

It was in the 1970s that the embroidery workshops in the village of Rutongo, located 25 km north of Kigali, were created by the Belgian community of the Sisters of the Visitation. This initiative allowed young girls from the village to train as embroiderers. After 3 years of apprenticeship, the young girls joined the workshop, which offered them stable work allowing them to support their families. In just a few years, the workshop has developed embroidery know-how unrivaled throughout Africa. Their work was recognized for its excellent quality of execution and for the value of the materials used. Building on their reputation which has transcended borders, the Rutongo workshops have had more than three hundred embroiderers working simultaneously.

Unfortunately the workshops did not survive the events of 1994 which caused the hasty departure of the sisters and the end of the embroidery activity in Rutongo. The embroiderers have dispersed to different workshops, most of which are in Kigali, or have abandoned the embroidery profession.

The Ibaba project

It all started with the marriage of Pascale and Eugène in 1998. The latter, originally from the village of Rutongo in Rwanda, introduced Pascale to his country and the history of the workshops. In 2011, during a stay in Rutongo, Pascale and her sister, Véronique, met former embroiderers who showed them small embroidery projects done with the means at hand. They are impressed by their dexterity and the refinement of their work. Véronique, a designer trained in applied arts, is interested in their know-how and decides to embark on a support project to restart the workshops.

In 2012, five embroiderers from the former Rutongo workshop came together to form a cooperative, CORUM (which today brings together 25 embroiderers).

Shortly after, Véronique created the IBABA RWANDA brand which creates collections based on embroidery from the Rutongo workshops. In 2013, the team expanded and Véronique, created in France, with Solange and Tessa, an association to support the production of the cooperative and initiate the training of new young women from the village. In 2019, they created the company IBABA to ensure the promotion and marketing of productions internationally.

Today, twenty-seven women work full-time in the Rutongo workshop on collections of fashion and decorative accessories, designed by Véronique.

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