When I met Alex Gakwaya, I thought I was meeting an ordinary artist. I was ready to admire his work and go home. However, his choice of words, his knowledge for the materials he used, and his language while explaining his craft caught my interest. It was not the passion, I had seen that before. It was neither the Made-in-Rwanda crafts; there are more of those nowadays. Part of what captivated me was items like ‘Beeswax’, ‘Tung oil’ known for being eco-friendly, characterising every wood product presented. At Alex Woodhouse Collection Gakwaya is a graduate in civil engineering and an artist whose focus is interior designing, which he confirms pushed him to establish Alex Woodhouse Collection. Handcrafted wood designs, home decor, wooden earrings, and necklaces personally caught my eye. The wooden tables, cups, plates, spoons, and many others, however, are not Gakwaya’s work alone but that of a team. Inside the workshop, where the wooden crafts are produced. “I employ carpenters and craftsmen like me whom I give ideas according to the orders I have received from clients or just some random creations, and then we work hand-in-hand to make them,” he shares. The Made-in-Rwanda Expo 2019 Arts and Crafts winner, decided to partner with Biganza Art Village, where he exhibits his artwork. His wooden products are primarily meant to be used in people’s day-to-day lives and that may lead one to wonder how safe they are to use. “We make these wood products for people to use, to eat or drink with them, if not for decoration, hence I find it essential to ensure that they don’t jeopardise people’s health,” he says. Gakwaya shares that they use Tung oil and beeswax to coat their furniture, giving it appealing textures all the while non-intoxicating. Tung oil and beeswax are both eco-friendly. Beeswax especially is known for preventing skin infections. All these, hence, make their products safe to use for those who prefer having an African touch to their decor and daily lives. Background influence Gakwaya says that his academic background has impacted him positively in his art. “It is very helpful that I studied civil engineering. It gave me the theoretical package of my whole work,” he says. Civil engineering is the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructure while protecting the public and environmental health. Though, some may argue that talent is only enough for one to prosper and that there is no need for academic excellence once one spots their talent, Gakwaya proves otherwise. “When you have a talent, it’s good and it can be enough, but when you have other notions from different studies, it shapes you and makes you even better,” he says. Challenges “The pandemic made it hard for start-ups to operate smoothly and that included us. From getting capital, finding materials, workers, to selling our products; it is very hard for us,” he says. “Covid-19 restrictions made it almost impossible for artists to exhibit their work publicly; however adhering to them will make us win. Rwandans only have to support us and love what we do, and everything will go in place little by little,” he adds.