Back from Rwanda: here's what we learnt from this life changing experience.
Remember when we promised we would go to Rwanda to run a series of workshops on female empowerment and crowdfunding? We went! In fact, that's how we decided to start 2017. And we could have not made a better choice.
In this update, we'll tell you what we learnt from East African creators and we'll let them tell you what they learned from us. (And, yes, we'll also show you mountain gorillas, zebras and hippos!)
It was such a profound exchange that we have no hesitation to say it was the most inspiring journey of our life.
On January 1st, after a 24h long flight through Portland and Amsterdam... we landed in Kigali!
This is them, with their amazing son, our nephew Rain!
At Phoebe and Isaac's we met everyday a mind-blowing number of wildly talented creators from Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, Burundi and even South Africa. For example, one night after dinner, Margaux Wong showed up.
Originally from Guyana, she married a Burundian man and moved to Burundi. In a country that's as beautiful as it is problematic, with a war that makes everything harder, more dangerous and more expensive, and with four children, Margaux built a business. She designs and makes sustainable jewelry collaborating with Burundian artisans and training a generation of young Burundian designers to create stunning rings, necklaces, bracelets and more mainly using cow horn.
Before meeting Margaux, some of these artisans used to work with ivory. An illegal business that caused them troubles with the police and ethical concerns. Margaux offered them a way out.
During the first week, we had a series of informal meetings like this one and got acquainted with the specific challenges and opportunities of Rwanda. The second week, we partnered with kLab, the tech incubator in Kigali run by Aphrodice Mutangana and Pacifique Hallelua. They hosted our workshop and - thanks to their support - we were able to bring together the community of artists and the community of tech entrepreneurs in Kigali.
It was magic, but we'll let two of the protagonists speak about it:
And of course, the workshop would have not been complete without a group photo:
As our trip came to an end, we had one last mission before leaving: donate three copies to the public library of Kigali, which is the first library in the world to have Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls!
We left Rwanda energized. Rwandan artists feel at the center of the process Rwanda is going through to rebuild the country after the genocide of 1994. They feel responsible, they are valued, and they work hard because they know that they are the generation who is building the future of their country.
Some of them decided to move back to Rwanda from the UK, the US, Jamaica... and they use their international connections to develop new projects and challenge the narrative around Africa.
Sometimes, it may feel like art, storytelling, books... are luxuries of a world that can afford to stop worrying about basic needs. Rwandans feel strongly that art, culture, and memory are the foundation of a peaceful, prosperous society. And we enthusiastically agree with that belief.
(Also: did you know the Rwandan parliament is 64% female? One more reason to be inspired by the country of a thousand hills.)
Time for some housekeeping:
- DHL Refunds: they're on their way! We're figuring out the fastest way to send you the refunds, but that too should be done by the end of the week.
- BOOKS ARE BACK IN STOCK!!! And for our Canadian friends, they are now available on Amazon.ca, so you can save $ on shipping and get the books much faster!
- REVIEWS: Would you please review the book on Amazon? We would really appreciate it!
- PRESS: Bustle put us in a list of 14 women who made us proud to be feminists in 2016... when you read who the other women are, you will understand why our head started spinning and we had to sit down.
This is all for now! Thanks for making it this far!
Stay rebel and take care of each other,
Francesca & Elena
Do you want to know more about Rwanda? Keep scrolling!
1. We tracked mountain gorillas in the jungle!!!
4. We got caught by surprise in the most rock'n roll SPA you have ever seen.
It was... an experience. And if you're wondering if you too should visit Rwanda... don't think twice, go! It's just BEAUTIFUL.