As most of you know, Kids Play Intl’ hosts its programming in Gatagara, Rwanda. Gatagara is located 90 mins south of Rwanda’s capital Kigali. It’s situated between Ruhango and Nyanza. Before Rwanda’s independence in 1962, Nyanza was the capital of the Kingdom of Rwanda until King Kigeli Ndahindurwa was overthrown and forced into exile in late 1961.
Gatagara was originally inhabited and settled by Batwa. As you may know, prior to genocide, Rwanda was divided into three social classes – Bahutu (85%), Batutsi (15%), and Batwa (less than 1%). Each class had their respective role in society – Batutsis were dairy farmers, Bahutus were farmers, and Batwa were primarily potters. Prior to 1959, the three classes lived together with little conflict. They intermarried and shared the same traditional dance, language, and culture.
As a community settled by Batwa, Rwanda’s original potters, Gatagara is most well known for its beautiful pottery created by local artisans at Poterie Local de Gatagara. Established in 1979 by Belgian ceramists, Poterie Local de Gatagara fuses modern ceramic technology with the traditional pottery methods of the Batwa. Before genocide in 1994, the cooperative supported thirty local families, however, during genocide, 24 of the 30 members were killed. In 1997, the cooperative was reestablished and now supports 17 members.
What makes Gatagara pottery unique is all materials are found within .5-10 miles of the cooperative; clay, kaolin, bricks for the kiln, and materials for the glazes including feldspar, talc, iron oxide, and ashes of eucalyptus, straw and hay. Preparing the clay for use takes up to TWO YEARS!
Currently, 100% of the potters and staff members at Gatagara Pottery are male. Traditionally it has been a male’s craft due to the nature of the work (although many potters claim to have learned from their mothers). Here at Kid’s Play we intend to take a field trip so we can introduce the craft to both our girls and boys and hopefully have one of Gatagara’s first female potters!