Rutongo Embroideries sells unique fine art textiles from Rwanda. They are created by artists who hail from both sides of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis. The women work together in the spirit of peace and reconciliation that characterizes modern Rwanda. Their compositions are alive with the vibrant life of Rwanda: everyday village life, ancient traditions, and nature. Their embroidery technique is unique to them, utilizing three different colored threads on one needle to achieve subtle blends of color. Only rarely does any one area of an embroidery consist of a single color. In this way, the artisans strive to create with needle and thread what the painter produces with brush and paint. Stitches are varied to produce desired textures and shapes—long, flowing stitches for mountains and sky; tight, tiny stitches for beans and grains. The variety of stitch types and the blending of threads give each work its vitality and depth.
Rutongo Embroideries was started by Juliana Meehan, an English teacher who lives in Bergen County, New Jersey, who discovered these artists as a tourist to Rwanda in 2010. Finding their work extraordinary, she returned to the States with the goal of supporting their efforts, since sales in Rwanda are weak. Since offering the embroideries to the American public, the workshop has been able to continue and even train more new artists.
The embroideries of Savane Rutongo-Kabuye workshop—which Juliana calls the “PAX Rwanda” collection to honor the women’s peaceable coexistence—has been viewed and enjoyed by patrons of museums and galleries in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington, DC. Read about the workshop’s story here.
Juliana regularly purchases new works at prices set by the workshop. She exhibits them, tells their remarkable story to appreciative audiences, and offers selected works for sale. All earnings from sales of the embroideries go directly toward the purchase of more works.