Macy’s (www.Macys.com) offers more than its wondrous share of shoes, perfumes, purses, and clothing. I recently discovered a treasure trove of intricately-woven, life-changing handmade art. Macy’s exclusive Rwanda Path to Peace Collection is an exquisite, socially-conscious line of elaborately-dyed sisal fruit baskets and bowls imported through Fair Winds Trading Co. There are 25 various styles woven by Rwanda women, who survived the 1994 Genocide, and are trained to be Master Weavers. Each numbered piece comes with an affixed Republic of Rwanda Seal and Certificate of Authenticity!
Created by thousands of Master Weavers from both the Hutu and Tutsi tribes, the specialty sisal peace baskets take about three days to create. Cut from the sisal trees in areas such as Gitarama, Rwanda, inner tree fibers are washed, dried, and then placed in heated pots of various organic dyes. The fibers and are then dried in the sun before being sewn around sweetgrass in precise patterns consisting of thousands of intricate stitches. The handmade bowls and baskets retail online and at the store for $50.
The concept to sell the Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace Collection came about when WillaShalit, an American artist, TV and theatrical producer visited Rwanda in 2004, while on a UN delegation. Already a socially-conscious philanthropist and entrepreneur, Shalit met with some of the Hutu and Tutsi Genocide widows, while trying to help them find ways to economically bounce back. During this visit, Shalit was introduced to numerous patterns of the awe-inspiring fruit baskets from women on both sides of enemy lines. She also envisioned the baskets as symbols of peace. The entrepreneur was convinced that the elaborately-woven baskets would sell to American retailers, and approached Terry Lundgren, Chair, CEO, and President of Macy’s. In 2006, Shalit incorporated her business as Fair Winds Trading Co., partnering along with Gahaya Links, a Rwanda business that includes sisters Joy Ndungutse and Hunger Project Laureate Janet Nkubana.
My Harvest basket hangs on the living room wall near other artwork, and I plan on being a collector of these fine bowls because they’re outstanding pieces of art. As a mother, it pleases me knowing that my money goes directly back to Rwanda. It’s Macy’s desire to continue helping the war-torn villages left devastated by 1994 Genocide. Since 2008, it’s estimated that more than 18,000 children’s lives have been improved, thanks to thousands of weavers employed by Macy’s through Fair Winds Trading Co. Skilled laborers proudly purchase their children’s school supplies, shoes, and clean uniforms – feats that were once unattainable prior to the weaving jobs arriving in 2008. Organized locally, weavers are also capable of affording public health insurance for their families. This is especially important for HIV-positive weavers, requiring adequate medication.
On a broader scale, entire villages have clean water, while weavers also have the option of buying water purification tablets and bottled water, which they share with neighbors. With lots of families now able to purchase a mosquito net device called SuperNet, the spread of malaria has also decreased. Indeed, it takes a village to create a brighter future!
– That’s IT Mom Penny
* We did not receive monetary compensation for this review. We received a bowl from Everywhere free of charge to facilitate this review. This will in no way sway our opinion of the product or service. The review is in our own words and is our opinion. Your results and opinions may differ.