Rwanda. – Have you seen the fabrics, beading, weaving, carvings, masks, ceramics and textures coming out of Africa. Not to mention the glorious bright colours that represent this seductive continent.

We are leading the way in the world of handmade crafts and that i a fact. Yes, I may well be biased, but after visiting the Caplaki Craft Market in Kigali’s Kiyoyu neighbourhood, I think my bias is based on truth.

The old informal street market along Ave de l’Armée next to the Milles Collines was moved to this new home where sellers are now organised into beautiful fixed stalls. Most of the items on sale are produced locally, with some items like the masks brought in from the DR Congo.

I’m not a big shopper when I travel, only buying token gifts for loved ones and the occasional travel memento for myself, yet here I could have done some serious damage!

Prices are set reasonably high and you are expected to bargain them down by quite a bit. To be honest, the Rwandan currency had me in a complete muddle and I had prices shown to me in US dollars, an easier divide by 10 right now. But then again, as an obvious muzungu, one who doesn’t speak French, the price was set higher than it would be for others, but I’m okay with that. 

There are dozens of little booths at the market, some around the parking area and others on either side of the stairs. It did feel a little like running the gauntlet as each store owner tried to show me their ware and I wish I could have supported each one of them. Its a tough way to make a living, especially out of season.

I was interested to learn how weaving was used to unite women in Rwanda after the genocide. The activity had widows of various ethnic groups gathering to weave baskets whilst creating an opportunity for them to earn money for their families. 

My great find was a pair of African print trousers, tapered with a zip at the ankle, which I fell in love with on sight. I’ve worn them often since and wish Cape Town had an outlet for similar African fabric clothing. The fashion in Rwanda, as I have said previously, astounded me and left me wishing I was equally as cool and stylish.

When in Kigali, this is the place I’d recommend for shopping. My driver Christian waited patiently whilst I chatted with vendors and left fingerprints on all their gorgeous goods. When I returned to the car he gifted me a woven “Rwanda” bracelet. It really moved me that he would do that, special people live here, ensuring those 1000 smiles and happiness. 

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Dawn Bradnick Jorgensen
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