Shop Maine Craft presents AGASEKE, a solo exhibition of handwoven baskets by Ange Muhorakeye at the Center for Maine Craft in West Gardiner, on view July 18 – August 30, 2023.
Ange Muhorakeye has early memories of being surrounded by basket weavers. A small child sitting with her nyogokuru (grandmother), Ange played with sweetgrass and sisal and modeled the weaving motions of the women who encircled her in the Burundi refugee camp where she was born. After leaving the camp to return to her family’s native Rwanda, Ange continued to learn the art of basket weaving from both her nyogokuru and mama.
In 2017, Ange made the decision to leave Rwanda and move to the United States. Before she boarded the plane, Ange’s mother passed her a package of grasses with a needle and thread, sending her off with the parting words, “Do not forget our culture.” Upon arriving in the United States, Ange unpacked the grasses and began weaving baskets to fill the time as she awaited documentation. Ange always thought of the baskets as rather commonplace, something the women of a village did. They had an unremarkable everyday usefulness. She gifted these first few baskets to new friends and used them to decorate her new home. These new acquaintances viewed the work as art pieces. Their feedback began to change her own perception of the work. Soon, Ange was receiving commissions and encouragement to sell the baskets at local craft shows and markets. She began to see a new beauty in their patterns, materials and craftsmanship.
Ange’s mother, Esperance, began coming to the United States in 2019. She now splits her time between Maine and Rwanda, each time returning to the U.S. with bundles of grasses with which to make new baskets. The plant materials, all sourced from Rwanda, help support the local women-owned economy. Ange is committed to sending a portion of the profits from her basket sales back to Rwanda to support single mothers and send their children to school. Her long-term aspiration is to work with women directly in Rwanda to make baskets for U.S. Markets.
I design each piece with gentleness, skill, and love to achieve special and unique creations. I use half of the sales proceeds to support women and their children from my country to sustain themselves and fight poverty.
Basket weaving is an age-old pastime in Rwanda. In the evening, women and girls traditionally gather and weave baskets. This activity bonded neighbors and family members across generations. Stories are shared and young girls are taught how to weave at the knee of their mother or grandmother. The practice of basket weaving was passed down from mother to daughter, from generation to generation, symbolizing a rite of passage into womanhood. Many of the basket patterns of today are the same patterns that have been taught and passed on for generations.
Each basket is hand woven with dyed sisal wrapped around fragrant sweetgrass. The sweet grass is used in its natural dried state. The sisal and sweet grass plants are grown by women in Rwanda, harvested, the fibers extracted and then the sisal is hand dyed. Created for utility, the baskets serve wonderfully as tabletop containers for holding produce, household storage, or to simply be appreciated as stunning wall-mounted art pieces.
The Center for Maine Craft will be hosting a demonstration of Ange Muhorakeye’s basket making process on Friday, August 18, 2023. Come meet Ange and watch the process in which she uses sweet grass and sisal to make her beautiful baskets. The demo will start at 11am, you won’t want to miss this!
On view in West Gardiner, this exhibition will feature a collection of woven bowls, lidded vessels, and other accessories. You may also shop Agaseke at the following Shop Maine Craft locations and events:
- Center for Maine Craft (retail sales year round + exhibition mid-July through August 2023)
- Maine Craft Portland
- Portland Fine Craft Show: August 27, 2023
- Guild Fine Craft Show: Scarborough: September 16 + 17, 2023