Africa Unchained 

"The object of development is to raise the living standards of the average African...the Atinga"

Artisan-shoemakers of Rwanda (abakorodoniye) are not typically regarded as artisans... instead, they self-disclose as "outcasts" and "forgotten" - the marginalized of their society. Making shoes for people out of tires is known as the work of the poor in Rwandan society.

Nonetheless, there are those who have little choice but to make this craft their primary source of livelihood. Here are the results of interviews conducted with the first artisan-shoemakers with whom we partnered in 2014. (Questionnaire used for these interviews listed below).


Artisan: Fidele Bwanakeye "Kazungu"

Location: Kigali,Kicukiro district

Age: 35 years old

I greet you in the name of The Lord.  I began as a shoemaker by joining a group of artisans who fixed and repaired rugabire (shoes made from tires).  Then, I began to work on my own.  Life is stable at this time - through making shoes, I can earn some income to help my family face the hard times we are living in. What brings me joy is trusting our God; what makes me suffer is that I work so hard but the income is so little.  

Another skill I use to support my family is gardening. But we suffer because I am not able to give my family what they want (nourishment). I met my wife while at work repairing shoes when she came to get a pair fixed... Sadly, 2015, we lost our first son to hydrocephalus. But his sister, Igiraneza Princesse, survived and is in good health. In 2016, Elijah was born, and we are so grateful to have a healthy, growing family now.

We thank God for The Atinga Project, as we can now afford better food and have been able to pursue other business activities! In 2014, my wife opened a small shop; two years later, we opened a small cafe together, all thanks to our partnership with Atinga. [updated 2016]

I want to say thank you very much to the Americans who are willing to help us by purchasing atingas and promoting us in this way.  May God bless you.

Continue the Conversation [+] 

Artisan: Apollinaire Hitimana

Location: Kigali, Kicukiro district

Age: 36

I greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus.  I started fixing regular shoes that broke, and I learned how to make rugabire.  The reason why I started making rugabire sandals is because the people were asking for it and many people love them.  Since I learned the trade, it helps me to earn some money, even though people despise this job.  

Before partnering with Atinga, I struggled to earn enough money for food and to cover the fees for my children's primary school. To provide for my family brings me great joy; I feel great suffering when I don't have a means to make and sell more shoes.  Another skill that I have is making keys.  However, I have struggled to expand this business so I continue making shoes and sandals. 

I was born in Kibuye in the Western province of Rwanda; I am the eldest of four siblings - all of us are survivors of the genocide.  During the massacres, God protected us and we found good people who helped us and kept us hidden.  I am now married with my wonderful wife - we met when she came to buy a pair of shoes.  Now we have four kids, I love all of them.  My daughter, Ingabire Keria brought me much joy as she was my first born. Ingabire means "gift".

Now that The Atinga Project has been successfully selling my atingas (atinga timbi and trail) I have used the money from the D4D to keep my children in school consistently by paying all their school fees on time; I've also been able to develop new kinds of rugabire sandals, and invest in my production so my local business thrives. I now have more local customers than ever before because of the collaboration with Atinga - I have greatly improved the quality standards of my footwear!  I want to thank Americans for the compassionate hearts they have who desire to support us through their purchases. [updated 2016]

Continue the Conversation [+]


Artisan: Francois Rwigenza

Location: Kigali,Kicukiro district

Age: Unknown

I greet you in Jesus's name. I began fixing shoes and soon after learned how to make rugabire.  [On Rwanda's economy] the income is greater when one makes shoes, rather than just fixing them.  So I started to make and sell them. 

Life is better now than before - today I am able to pay rent and get something to eat. To think about my past makes me very sad.  I come from Kibuye in the Western province of Rwanda; my wife has left me here with my kids. She lives in Kenya now. I do not have any other skills - I never had a chance to gain any formal education; I hope to continue making shoes to earn a living. 

Thanks to this partnership with Atinga since 2014, I have been able to lift myself even further out of poverty, and afford my medical expenses and maintain my health. Using the D4D money, I have been able to find a place to live and leave the cycle of renting, completely. Now I am able to prepare more for my business and produce more footwear. [updated 2016]

I know we look poor and are despised [as shoemakers], but I thank Americans for not ignoring our needs and helping us in this way, through socially-conscious enterprise.

Continue the Conversation [+] 

→ Meet Atinga Founders ← 


Alexis                                                                              Claude


Keep the conversation going and ask the Atinga Artisans anything about life and work in Rwanda.

→  Ask an Artisan  ←

Questionnaire items used for above interviews in 2014:

How did you begin as an "artisan-shoemaker" and why? - How is your life right now? - What brings you joy? - Hardship? - Happiness or pain? - What other skills do you have? - Do you plan to continue to make sandals? -Tell us more about your life and family. - What is the first thing you would do if the Atinga Project could successfully sell of your sandals to America? - Last, what do you have to say to Americans? - Anything you would like to ask them or tell them?