The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market has generated more than $20 million in sales since it began 12 years ago. Most of that money goes home with the artists and supports entire communities. In some cases, shared prosperity also helps heal the effects of trauma.
Janet Nkubana used the traditional craft of basket weaving to bring together Hutu and Tutsi women following the Rwandan genocide in 1994. She represents Gahaya Links Cooperatives, one of 52 womens’ cooperatives in Rwanda. The group has earned $235,000 for women artisans and their families since 2008.
Nkubana: Immediately after the 1994 genocide the women of Rwanda were the highly affected people because they killed their sons, their husbands. One things we looked at is how can we make ends meet for these people so that healing can come when they have something to eat to survive. The only tradition that every woman knew was making baskets.
Some were survivors, others were perpetrators and having them come together was really very, very hard. But because the common thing was these woman all needed something to eat, those who survived needed to live, those who had husbands in prisons needed to fee their children. So it was really something that was very challenging, but these women started making money, tensions started easing slowly, but not so fast. And a few started accommodating others until they found time to even ask for forgiveness on behalf of their family members.
There are so many people who come to Santa Fe who have seen our baskets and they have passed the word around and people have come to realize that we make very beautiful baskets and it has opened up opportunities for the women. Every woman, number one, can afford to pay for health insurance for the whole family for the whole year. We have women who have sent their children to universities from their earnings. We have single mothers who have even put up their own homes, modified their houses.
Even the Rwandan government adopted the peace basket brand. When you look at Rwanda today, people no longer talk about Hutu Tutsi, they talk about Rwanda. We are Rwandans. Women have taken the lead to forgive their perpetrators. They have taken the lead to work together, they have been role models of peacemakers and the Rwandan government celebrates peace because women have taken a great lead bringing that peace in the communities.