If you are interested in local arts and crafts, it is well worth stopping in Gitarama (Muhanga). There are many artisan co-operatives working in the area, and a number have found local and international market connections through organizations and shops located in the town.
Of these, three in particular merit a visit and are open Monday to Friday 08.00 to 16.30 and at other times by arrangement. All three are situated on or close to the main road from Kigali to Butare (Huye).
The first, Agaseke House, is on the right as you enter Gitarama from Kigali, and opposite the large church of St Andre. (If you see the prison on the left, you have gone too far.) Agaseke House is a large salmon-coloured building with a huge agaseke – the traditional Rwandan basket with its distinctive conical lid – painted on the side. It is the showroom for the 400 members of the COPARWA artisans’ co-operative. The showroom is managed by Anastasie Uwimabera: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0783.353.766.
The second, Azizi Life, is just off the main road 150m after the prison and 20m before Saint Marie Reine School. Azizi Life is a small local business dedicated to supporting artisans with fair wages, market connections, and resources for developing their art, business, faith, and life as a whole. Azizi Life is working with about 25 different associations and cooperatives in the south of Rwanda, and has a variety of their hand crafted art on sale. Also, contact Tom or Christi if you’re interested in visiting the artists and experiencing a taste of daily village life or learning a local craft. Tom: 0783.049.665; Christi: 0788.222.464. You can check out Azizi Life on Facebook, or at www.azizilife.com.
The third, YWCA Rwanda, is on your right as you leave town, just past a Kobil filling station. If you need help finding it, just ask for ‘Plateau’. In YWCA Rwanda reception is a display of handicrafts made by YWCA members and orphaned heads of households. Most are subsistence farmers so income from making handicrafts is important to pay for school fees, health insurance and foods they cannot grow. The staff speak English and can explain how the products are made and their traditional uses. You can contact YWCA Rwanda via www.ywcarwanda.org or phone the General Secretary, Pudentienne Uzamukunda, on 0788.484.514.