Mixing culture, art and development

For a continent that has got the unenviable reputation of being copycats of the western way of life in everything, from political to social and even impossible economic lifestyles, Rwanda has cultivated a niche for following programmes that are homegrown.

For a continent that has got the unenviable reputation of being copycats of the western way of life in everything, from political to social and even impossible economic lifestyles, Rwanda has cultivated a niche for following programmes that are homegrown.

The success story of Gahaya Gifted Hands Centre is a case in point.

This is a project that was started to benefit HIV/Aids women by involving them in making jewellery that can provide them not only with an income, but also a sense of purpose in life.

Gahaya Links, also a big-name enterprise which helps Genocide widows and orphans through arts and crafts, especially the world-renowned agaseke or peace baskets, has made a big impact in providing a livelihood for these vulnerable groups.

But economic emancipation is not all; the project has also been used as a unity and reconciliation platform, for here, victims of the Genocide and perpetrators and their relatives meet, sew and craft their ware in peace, burying their anger and vengeful thoughts or shame.

Peace baskets and the process of their production have become a symbol of unity and reconciliation in the same way that Gacaca, traditional courts set up to try Genocide cases are.

These courts have not only speeded up the justice process, they have also been highly instrumental in breaching the divide between contemporary justice and the element of forgiveness to those who repent their Genocide past.

The Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) has crafted a successful programme to boost tourism, in the innovation of gorilla naming, or Kwita Izina as is now internationally known.

This office has successfully blended traditional values with running a successful tourism campaign that has improved the economy.

Rwandans need to look into such ideas carefully and see whether we cannot blend our culture with business innovations.

China and India are credited with success arising from development programmes that are culturally friendly to their people’s way of life, and it is high time Africa looked closely at ways of incorporating our cultural values in our developmental programmes.

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