Meet Kamanzi, the batik design specialist

When you talk about batik art and other forms of hand printing on textile in Rwanda, one company immediately comes to mind, and that is Glo Creations.
Kamanzi showcases her famous batik collection for interior designs.(Doreen Umutesi)
Kamanzi showcases her famous batik collection for interior designs.(Doreen Umutesi)

When you talk about batik art and other forms of hand printing on textile in Rwanda, one company immediately comes to mind, and that is Glo Creations. 

Glo Creations is a textile company that designs a variety of patterns on textiles as well as making fashionable clothing, and home décor items. It was founded by Gloria Kamanzi Uwizera.

Gloria Kamanzi

The 33-year-old Kamanzi founded and established Glo Creations in 2008.

“At Glo Creations, we specifically use a hand dyeing and printing technique known as batik art.

The work we do blends modern lifestyles with an African touch that is uniquely Rwandan. It’s a simple way of expressing our culture and creative textile,” Kamanzi expresses.

The talented designer was born in Belgium, lived in Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda before coming to Rwanda. Although she pursued courses in accounting and commerce, her career path changed when she travelled to Senegal and fully embraced the world of textile and design; although she attended the Institute of Marketing, Accounting And International Marketing in Senegal.

Gloria Kamanzi Uwizera at her workshop in Nyamirambo.

“In 1999, I moved to Dakar to explore other fields of interest. Five years later, I got introduced to the art of painting on textile, known as batik. I trained with a Liberian batik artist, Gabriel Saydee, for a short period of time. The batik art taught me some skills I could use in the designing process,” Kamanzi narrates.

In 2010, Kamanzi was awarded the best young fashion designer award during the first edition of the Rwanda Fashion Festival.

“I always loved drawing as a child and it’s so sad that I realised my potential in the world of art at a later stage after spending time studying finance related courses. I can’t entirely rule out the fact that accounting courses have helped me run my business effectively, but I wasted a lot of time which I could have used to nurture my talent in art,” Kamanzi reveals.

In 2012, she was awarded the Best Young Entrepreneur award in Kigali by the Ministry of Labour and Public Service. In the same year, she was the 1st runner up (tailoring cluster) in the HEAP (Handicraft Excellence Award Programme), a national competition for handcrafts organised under the Ministry of Commerce.

Kamanzi has also been involved in many women empowerment programmes, some of which she believes have greatly helped her become a better entrepreneur.

“My advice to women and young girls is simple; if you realise your talent or skills to do something, do not hesitate to use it. Women should not underestimate their potential. All a woman has to do is believe in her potential and then purse her passion by equipping herself with skills and knowledge that are related to their talent,” Kamanzi says.

Kamanzi was among the 47 women from sub-Saharan Africa that participated in the African women’s entrepreneurship programme (AWEP) which was held in the United States of America in 2012.

Kamanzi showcasing her famous Batik collection for interior designs.

Kamanzi has passed on batik making skills by training women cooperatives to help them generate income from their art. She attributes her success in the business world to God and her grandfather who was her source of inspiration.

“God has granted me grace and wisdom to understand how to run my business but I can’t hesitate to say that my grandfather inspired me to start it. I grew up seeing how he was successful with his business so I felt that I could also make it. I think it runs in the family,” Kamanzi says.

As it is with any kind of business, Kamanzi faces challenges that range from locally acquiring raw materials to hiring skilled personnel in the field of art.

“Experienced artisans charge so much money that if you employ them; you end up running down your business. I always employ people who are passionate and creative and then train them. I currently employ five permanent staff although from time to time, I out source,” Kamanzi discloses.

When asked what keeps her going despite the challenges, she says: “Besides loving what I do, I’m always happy when I see my employee able to address a problem using the money we got from the work. I also love the fact that the people we offer our services appreciate what we do and that keeps me going.”

Although Kamanzi showcases her products mainly at Rwanda Nziza in Kiyovu, her products are exported to other countries in the region.

Gloria Kamanzi (centre) was a judge during last month’s Educat- GT Bank Entrepreneurship Awards. (Photos by Doreen Umutesi) 

During the visit to her Nyamirambo workshop, she had completed sets of cushion covers that had been ordered by people from Congo Brazzaville.

Kamanzi is also the Chairperson of Rwanda Nziza, an association for Rwandan artisans and designers that promotes Rwandan art work.

“At Rwanda Nziza, we connect artisans and designers with local and international markets in the art industry. We also aim at training artisans with more skills and equip them with more knowledge about the art of business,”Kamanzi says.

Colombe Ituze, a designer at INCO fashion house, describes Kamanzi as her mentor in the fashion world.

“I met Kamanzi six years ago and she has taught me a lot. She is one of the people that have greatly impacted my designing career. I’m inspired by her work as an entrepreneur and I know very well that she inspires other women and srtisans in general,” Ituze says.

Charlotte Mukakigeri, Managing Director of Akagera Game Lodge, says that Kamanzi is very professional when dealing with her clients.

“I first met her at a Service Mag cocktail party six months ago
and made an order for our staff uniforms. She was so great that she came all the way to the lodge to take measurements.

She was always available even when we requested for adjustments. I really enjoy working with her and I’m always willing to do business with her because her commitment is motivating.”