Meet Ingabire, the visual artists using art to make money while making a difference

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Francois Ingabire, 25, had a government job after her Secondary education but he always dreamy of a life in visual arts, a dream that came true.

Ingabire worked in different public institutions and an international NGO but could go for art training in weekends and at any given chance. “All this time, I was trying to save some money and follow my dream of being an artist,” Ingabire reveals

After saving some capital, “I quit the job and formed a cooperative together with other artists. This is how “All African handcrafts” cooperative started, he says.

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“All African Handicrafts” cooperative has six members.  Luck smiled on Ingabire when he met Shunsuke Naito, a volunteer at Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that led him to fully realise his dream through more training.

Shunsuke Naito helped Ingabire and other local artisans to improve on the quality of artworks and improve their livelihoods.  “He linked us to buyers especially Japanese, that purchase items whenever they come to Rwanda,” says Ingabire.

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“When I met Shunsuke Naito, he coached me on art and marketing skills. After months of coaching, we started helping other groups of artists and setting up projects for unemployed youth,” says Ingabire

The working relationship between Shunsuke Naito and Francois Ingabire led to the formation of “UMUSARE”, a Non-Government Organization that aims at conserving Rwanda traditional arts and improve the lives of the vulnerable women and youth.

Under this NGO, vulnerable women and youth from different parts of Rwanda are trained in craft making, which they sell to earn a living.

Umusare has trained up to forty cooperatives to produce art works that can compete on the international market,” says Francois Ingabire, cooperative’s legal representative.

Arts and craft cooperatives or Handicraft cooperatives assist individual crafts people who make various items of artwork acquire raw materials, control quality of items made and market them to various buyers for the benefit of members.

Apart from one cooperative that had tailoring skill before, other cooperatives have been trained from zero to make crafts and earn a living. A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

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