Each purse reflects a design original to the artisans’ home.

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Gitarama purses are available in six distinct designs, pictured above.  From left to right, they are the Primi, Narcisse, Vestine, Tuji, Celeste, and Mukinda.

Each purse is hand-made by a local Rwandan designer using local techniques and materials.  The handbags are available in six different patterns, each based on a design native to the communities where the artisans live.   The purse designs are named for the local artisans.

Made from banana leaves…

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If you have ever been to Rwanda, you have eaten bananas many ways – fried, mashed, sauteed– even made into delicious banana beer. Banana trees are everywhere in Rwanda. Gitarama purses, made from banana leaves, are a perfect product for Rwandans to export. By purchasing one of our purses, you will provide a local artisan with a way to make a living that is based on the abundant, renewable supply of a local plant.

Each purse is individually crafted by a group of local weavers and takes approximately 3 days to complete. Several times a week, the artisans gather in groups to visit while they are weaving, often in the shade of banana trees. The more skilled weavers train those new to the group.

Before the artisans may begin weaving, banana leaves must be harvested, soaked in water, then dried, sorted, thinned, and sliced. The banana leaves are divided by color so that sections of light and dark banana leaves may be woven together to create the unique patterns on the purses. Other materials such as the forest grasses that are used to edge the purses must also be gathered, cut and sorted before the weaving may start.

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Once the sections of the purses made of woven banana leaves are completed, the weavers cut them according to the purse patterns and sew corresponding pieces of fabric to the interior. The intricate banana leaf edging seen on the purses is created separately, often by a different weaver, and then is stitched onto the front and back panels of the purse. The handle is trimmed with the braid and the purse’s edges are finished with rolled forest grasses.

Now the purse is ready to be assembled. The panels are each individually sewn together using rice sack edging wrapped over a core of forest grasses. Once the purse is fully assembled, the last step is for the exterior to be glazed and dried.