CHARLES KWIZERA finds out about the inside of a ‘home’ for handcrafts
Walking towards this chain of shops, you are welcomed by smiling faces of the proprietors who are happy to explain anything to you.
The art pieces inside the shops beckon you to take a second look. Inside the shops, you are greeted with nicely curved sculptures, door mats, locally woven baskets (Uduseke), masks, leather sandals, dolls, and pictures.
“It is not easy to come here and leave without buying anything. The pieces here are tempting and being a lover of art pieces, I sometimes lie to myself that I will just come and do window shopping, but I have never been able to go without buying a thing. It’s just enticing,” said Sheila Dusabe who was shopping at the village.
“We used to operate near hotel des Mille Collines before we were given this place by the government. The road side at Mille Collines was becoming so congested, but after acquiring this place, business has become more lucrative and defined,” reveals Jacqueline Mukarugwiza one of the shop owners at the Village, while talking about their current location they got from government.
“Different people come here to buy our products. However, our biggest clientele is with the tourists who come into the country. And of course the locals with heavy pockets” responds Mukarugwiza when I ask her what kind of customers buy their products.
“You see there is a lot of cultural heritage embedded deep inside these handcrafts and I think its important for every Rwandan to keep something like this in their homes, because it is a way of preserving our culture,” says Rose Mukakigeri waving a piece which depicts the wall decorations that used to adorn walls in the King’s Palace.
These pieces are apparently not as expensive as one would imagine, “No no no… they are not so expensive as such but as you see buying these products to an average Rwandan would be kind of luxurious, so those who opt for some of these pieces are those who can be able to spend on luxuries,” explains Peter Rukundo another shop owner.
“Yes, we are earning some good money here which is enough for sustaining us and our families,” says Rukundo.
According to Rukundo, most of the art products are supplied to them by local producers. They are mainly the various women associations around the country. These have become the suppliers of baskets which have become a trade mark of Rwanda internationally.
“We also however, have some imported products from other countries like for example when we go for exhibitions in other countries, we come back with some of their products and they take ours too,” says Rukundo.
“Our Pieces don’t have fixed prices; every body offers their own price according to how much they have liked a particular piece,” says Rukundo.
He adds that sometimes, someone can pay an exorbitant price that the seller does not expect to get from that particular piece. He explains that some people attach a lot of importance to particular products.