Ange Muhorakeye of Agaseke
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.