Peace baskets: The lucrative and significant symbols of Rwanda

Speaking to a white friend over a cup of coffee last evening, she openly expressed her interest in knowing more about the famous peace baskets.

Speaking to a white friend over a cup of coffee last evening, she openly expressed her interest in knowing more about the famous peace baskets.

I was cross about the whole idea; peace baskets are always written about! How come she claimed not to know anything about them? And what was it that she really wanted to know about them that wasn’t explored yet?

Peace baskets for years have been a centre of attraction, tourism and have also given a hand in winning Rwanda awards though the need to know about their origin still lingers.

That’s the part that my friend wanted to know; the history of peace baskets and their significance to Rwanda.
Given the importance of peace baskets, their implication and history can never go unnoticed.

According to an online article named Basket beginnings, the weaving of baskets is as old as the history of man. Traces of baskets have been found in the Egyptian pyramids, and woven basket liners have left their impressions inside the fragments of ancient pottery.

As soon as people were able to plait fibers together, they began to experiment with structures for woven containers which they gave a try and it worked out. The ancient Egyptians pictured out things that would act as containers for their cloths, food stuffs and seeds.

And as the explorers traded goods between different places, Rwanda was one of the lucky countries to get baskets.

It did not only get them but they also found out ways of how these beautiful things had been created and in the end the Rwandans also managed to create their own baskets.

Not many Rwandans know much about the origin of baskets, but even when they are deep asleep they can happily share the significance of these little things made out of sisal.

“In the past, Agaseke used to symbolize the satisfactoriness of food,” says Monica Iyadede, 61.The ancient Rwandans used to keep grains, serials like amasaka {millet}, fruits in the peace baskets.

And if a visitor saw these baskets in the sitting room on arrival, they would be rest assured that its harvest time and they would be served with plenty of food.

Peace baskets also symbolized togetherness and love. Women and girls would gather during evenings {regardless of their ethnic differences} to weave baskets, fibre mats {Ibirago}

“During these evening sessions, we would sing, make melody and also discuss central issues in our society.

Disrespectful cases would also be tackled here and measures would be taken,” explained Jeanine Umubyeyi.

According to Umubyeyi, there was less disrespect when she was growing up which she owes to the “Kuboha evening sessions” as she calls them.

To any elderly Rwandan, Agaseke is as important as it was in the past. Agaseke was also a sign of responsibility among married women. In any marriage where there wasn’t anything like the wife was called by all disgraceful names; lazy, unserious, mean name it.

And when a girl was leaving her parents’ home to her matrimonial home, they elders would hand her three peace baskets. “One was for keeping food so that her husband and children would never go hungry; the second one was for keeping fruits for the visitors

 Since she had to be a goodhearted woman {Umugore w’umunyamutima} and the third one was for keeping seeds for sowing,”highlighted Umubyeyi.

These three peace baskets were to basically build the girls’ morals and also to get her used to her new institution {marriage}.

A girl would forego anything but not a peace basket for marriage.

Peace baskets also deserved that name recently after the genocide for they were and are still a big tool in re-uniting the formerly shattered Rwanda to a preferred and more beautiful place to be.

As women weave on, it’s not only for commercial purposes, peace baskets keep them attached to their culture and history.

Ends

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