New York, NY – July 24, 2015 – Juliana Meehan presents a unique collection of textile art from Rwanda on display at the Mark Miller Gallery, 92 Orchard Street, New York, NY, from July 24 to August 23. The exhibit is part of a gallery of handmade items from around the world sponsored by “Jewel and Lotus,” an international partnership of artisans, businesses, and non-profit organizations who purchase goods at ethical prices.
In 2010, Meehan, a New Jersey educator touring Rwanda, discovered Mode Savane, a shop that sold extraordinary embroideries depicting scenes of Rwandan life and culture. This was the start of her one-of-a-kind collection and humanitarian effort to support these artists.
It began with the shop’s owner, Christiane Rwagatare, a Rwandan who lived much of her early life in exile. Upon returning to Rwanda following the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsis that claimed the lives of more than 800,000 men, women, and children, Rwagatare wanted to help the survivors. She discovered a group of village women selling small embroidery. Noticing their skill, Rwagatare conceived the idea of a workshop where they might create full-size fine art textiles.
Rwagatare announced that anyone interested in working in an “embroidery cooperative” should come to the local church at a designated time. More than 100 women answered the call. Regrettably, she could only take fifteen. That was the start of the “Savane Rutongo-Kabuye” workshop.
Their technique involves loading three different colors of thread onto one needle, producing subtle blends of colors that bring their compositions to life. Each unique piece requires three months of meticulous effort.
Meehan explained, “One woman was just about to get married when her young man was killed in the genocide. Other artisans are widows, and some of them have men in prison. They hail from both sides—Hutu and Tutsi—although they no longer use those terms in Rwanda. Now, they refer themselves simply as ‘Rwandans.’” And they work together in peace.
Since discovering them in 2010 and undertaking to sell their work in the United States, Meehan has seen their wages rise.
All sales support the Savane Rutongo-Kabuye workshop. According to Meehan, “I have exhibited their works at several venues in the New York metropolitan area and in Washington DC. These self-taught artists deserve recognition.”
The exhibit Pax Rwanda: Embroideries of the Women of Savane Rutongo-Kabuye includes original legends and explanatory posters and is available for exhibition.
Photos are available upon request.
About the Curator – Juliana Meehan
Meehan teaches middle-school English and holds degrees in English literature and anthropology and New Jersey reading, supervisory, and principal’s certifications. She is also adviser of a youth club, Citizens of the World, that teaches young people what it means to be a global citizen, connecting with others around the world, and taking action for social good.
For information on booking an exhibit, please contact:
Telephone: (201) 968-1338
Rutongo Embroideries LLC