ZUBA Africa designer Linda Trau with some of the Rwandan artisans who create her line.
Inspired by “izuba,” the Rwandan word for sunshine, ZUBA Africa is a collaboration between Linda Trau, a designer and humanitarian, and Fairwinds Trading, a company that uses business as a strategy for the economic empowerment of women in developing countries. I asked Linda about the story behind ZUBA, the artisans who hand-make each beaded necklace and printed tote, and how her efforts have made a difference in Rwandan communities.
Tonya: What first brought you to Rwanda, and what is the story behind the line’s origins?
Linda: I was involved with a village that was built in Rwanda for orphaned children, and I saw how desperately poor the women were. These women were survivors of the genocide, and I decided to work in Rwanda the following summer to teach them vocational skills like sewing and making jewelry. The women responded amazingly well. Their spirits were lifted. I worked with the local materials, and began to design fashionable pieces for stores in the United States. We had a wonderful response and were able to empower hundreds of women. In turn, their lives were changed, as was mine. The humble gratitude was so inspiring and heartwarming that my life has been changed forever.
T: What benefit have you seen in these Rwandan communities?
L: The benefits for the women have been wonderful. They have become stronger and better able to feed themselves and their children. Learning these skills has given them hope and a newfound passion for living. Not having to depend on the charity of others changes their reality.
T: What goes into the creation of each piece? Could you tell us about the process?
L: Each design is based on an original idea, and assembled with materials purchased in local markets. The vibrant prints and colors are inspired by the Rwandan women themselves.