Rubia's Whole Cloth refugees exhibit is currently on display at the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough New Hampshire. Created with support from New Hampshire Humanities Council, it explores why Rwandan, Burundian and Congolese refugees now living in Manchester left their homelands and what they’ve found in NH. The museum is also featuring Rubia's exquisite bogolan and indigo textiles in their gift shop. Malian women and youth belonging to Tanti Bogolan Women's Association and Ndomo Workshop made the scarfs and wall hangings for sale using ancient textile dyeing techniques. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Building on its experience in Afghanistan, Rubia is empowering Malian artisans through sustaining their cultural heritage of bogolan -- and their livelihoods.
Drawn to the legacy of Smilow Furniture’s “enduring modern classics, ” Rubia imagined a partnership between Smilow Design, Ndomo and Rubia. The result: this unique bogolan upholstered chair blending the handwork of our American and Malian ancestors.
This mudcloth (bogolan: bogo means mud and lan means with) chair began on the banks of the Niger River in the ancient city of Segou. Malian youth hand-dyed its organic cotton cushion covers with fermented mud made from grape bark.
They learned traditional techniques of dying bogolan textiles from their elders at Ndomo workshop. Its leader, Boubacar Doumbia, one of Mali’s preeminent bogolan artists passed down his skills to the next generation.
Meanwhile 4452 miles away in New York City Judy Smilow re-issued this rail back lounge chair designed in 1950 by her father, Mel Smilow, who passed down his furniture line of “Enduring Modern Classics” to his daughters. Her company Smilow Designs is upholding his standards for the finest craftsmanship: this sculpted chair has a solid walnut frame and a distinctively carved back.
If you are interested in purchasing this chair, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Sewing Confidence women from Nepal, Burundi, Rwanda, Haiti, and Iraq are empowering themselves with the knowledge to protect their children’s health by preventing lead exposure in their homes. Rubia is grateful to Suzanne Rouleau of the Manchester Dept. of Health training the seamstresses in how to minimize the risk of lead poisoning. In addition to offering training at their studio in West Manchester, the Health Department supplied tools for cleaning their apartments to prevent lead poisoning. Sewing Confidence Director, Thandi Tshabango Soko identified the need for health classes along with training in sewing and product design: “As the women transition from living in refugees camps to living Manchester, they and their families are faced with new health challenges ranging from environmental exposures to changing diet and physical activity levels.” said Tshabango-Soko. In response, Tshabango-Soko coordinated the lead poisoning risk prevention program.
Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. However, nearly 1 million children living in the United States have blood lead levels high enough to impair their ability to think, concentrate, and learn. Evidence shows that the most common source of lead exposure for children today is lead paint in older housing and the contaminated dust and soil it generates. New Hampshire has the oldest housing of anywhere in the United States with 62% of its homes built before lead-based paint was banned in 1978. We are grateful to St. Mary’s Bank, the oldest credit union in the US, for the generous Community Outreach grant that made this training possible.
Dear Friend of Rubia,
Thank you for your support of Rubia over the past decade. As you may know Rubia was founded in 2000 during the Taliban rule of Afghanistan by ethno-linguist Rachel Lehr. Rubia’s mission was to give impoverished Afghan refugee women in Pakistan the chance to earn money selling their traditional embroidery in the US and to empower them through literacy, life skills and sustainable livelihoods. Since its inception Rubia has steadily expanded its mission to include women and their families in Afghanistan, the US and Africa.
2014 has been a momentous year for Rubia. Our Afghan partner, Humanitarian Organization for Local Development (HOLD), has trained 300 women and 100 men in human rights, literacy and health through our Threads of Change curriculum.
Rubia applies a similar approach closer to home in Manchester, New Hampshire, combining education with income generation through its Sewing Confidence (SC) program. Thanks to the Lincoln Financial Foundation, women hailing from Bhutan, Haiti, Iraq, Burma, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi have learned advanced sewing and business development skills.
In 2013-14 a team of Notre Dame students, with support from the Kellogg Institute, analysed the applicability of the Rubia model in post-conflict Afghanistan to Mali, a West African country now rebuilding in the aftermath of a 2012 rebellion followed by a coup d’etat. The 2013 democratic election of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita offers a hopeful moment for this battered predominantly Muslim nation. Rubia would like to be part of Mali’s return to peace and democracy.
In July I traveled to Mali with Board member Kimberly McLaughlin to meet with bogolan (mudcloth) artisans at nine different enterprises. Bogolan is hand-woven cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud. It has an important place in traditional Malian culture and has become a symbol of Malian cultural identity. The cloth enjoys increasing popularity worldwide and is used in fashion, fine art and decoration. Rubia is now piloting two bogolan partnerships, with the Tanti Bogolan Women’s Association in Djenne (a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site) and with Ndomo workshop in Segou. Djenne has long been a popular tourist destination, but recent warnings of kidnapping and terrorism have scared foreigners away. Bogolan artisans who formerly sold their textiles to tourists now struggle for survival.
Income from Rubia’s bogolan sales in the US enables the Malian artisans to buy food and pay school fees for their children, keep their cultural heritage alive and pass it on to the next generation and provide a piece of the solution to Mali’s pressing unemployment crisis.
The support of donors like you has enabled Rubia to accomplish a lot in 2014. But there is so much more to be done. After the American troops leave Afghanistan, Rubia plans to continue empowering Afghan women through income and education, but with a major Dining for Women grant ending in 2014, we need your support more than ever to continue this work.
Please contribute to Rubia today: www.rubiahandwork.org. If you prefer, you can send a check to PO Box 1644, Manchester, NH 03105. Your tax-deductible donation will help us transform the lives of more impoverished women in Mali, Afghanistan and North America. Your purchase of Rubia goods at the upcoming exhibit, “From Birds to Beasts: the Audobon’s Last Great Adventure,” at the Currier Art Gallery in Manchester, NH or from Green Goods in Concord, NH will support Rubia’s multi-cultural mission and add beauty to your life.
Thank you for giving the gift of dignity.
Catherine Rielly, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Rubia
St. Mary's Bank in Manchester is giving a grant to Rubia-Sewing Confidence aimed at empowering refugee and immigrant women with health information and business development skills.
“We help resettled refugees and immigrants learn critical skills through hands-on practical application of income generating strategies and promote women’s empowerment through income generation from the sale of their handwork.” explained Thandi Tshabangu-Soko, Program Director. “We provide classes in hand and machine sewing techniques, product design, financial literacy, and cooperative business development.”
The program not only offers sewing skills and business development strategies, but includes environmental health awareness and health promotion discussions.
“As they transition into a new environment, they and their families, are sometimes faced with new health challenges ranging from environmental exposures to changing diet and physical activity levels” said Tshabangu-Soko.
The grant from St. Mary’s Bank will provide teachers in health promotion, environmental awareness, and cooperative business development as well as interpreters to accommodate students’ needs.
“The women benefiting from this program face many challenges as they work to become productive, engaged members of the Greater Manchester community,” said Tom Champagne, St. Mary’s Bank Director of Community Outreach. “We are pleased that our support will help them learn many of important skills they’ll need to meet these challenges.”
About St. Mary’s Bank
Founded in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1908, St. Mary’s Bank is the first credit union in the nation. It makes progressive financial products and services available and affordable to consumers and businesses. Members enjoy excellent service, competitive rates, low fees and state-of-the-art banking services. Headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire, St. Mary’s Bank has locations in Manchester, Hudson, Londonderry, Milford, Nashua and Concord. Call 1-888-786-2791 or visit www.stmarysbank.com for more information.