Secrecy, Prosperity, Virginity, and Wealth reflected in ‘Agaseke'.

“Agapfundikiye Gatera Amatsiko”, paraphrased in English as “A covered basket raises curiosity”; a Kinyarwanda proverb that Ms. Brooke, an English University student, flew home with after her 7 days visit to Rwanda. She bought ‘Agaseke’ as a souvenir of her good time in the land of thousand hills, and since then she feels proud to use its derivative Kinyarwanda proverb charting with her friends.

‘Agaseke’ is a prestigious uniquely Rwandan basket that carries core values of Rwandans. It was traditionally used to keep possessions safe, store and serve food (mostly sorghum bread). Affirmed by Kankuyo, a 64 years old woman, the Agaseke could preserve food (sorghum/millet bread) for more than a week.

‘Agaseke’ is very important in Rwandans’ social and cultural ceremonies such as wedding and other family-related events.

In wedding ceremony, ‘Agaseke’ is an important gift for the new married couple for these reasons:

  • Always lidded, ‘Agaseke’ signifies the bride’s virginity. In Rwandan culture, a girl is supposed to remain virgin until the day of her marriage. The bride’s virginity is considered as the respectful gift a groom expects from a bride.
  • ‘Agaseke’ for a new married couple also symbolizes that secrecy is something of a great importance in the family. It highlights loyalty between a wife and her husband and reminds them that family issues should be kept secret no matter worse the situation can be.
  • ‘Agaseke’ also reminds a new married couple that saving is a crucial habit for the financial stability of the family.

In Rwandan culture, the bride would stay at her parents-in-law for a specific period of time after the marriage. During her stay, she was required to weave ‘Agaseke’ as a gift to her mother-in-law. Failing to finalize her Agaseke in that period would be considered as laziness and it would bring shame to her parents for having poorly trained her.

In various cultural ceremonies that occur in a Rwandan family, people (particularly women) bring foodstuffs (mostly sorghum, millet, beans, peas, etc) in their ‘Uduseke’ (plural form of Agaseke) to be given to the host family.

Nowadays, Agaseke is also viewed as a decoration tool. There are many cooperatives that are earning a lot from Agaseke weaving because it is among craft-works mostly liked by foreigners who visit Rwanda. They usually buy ‘Agaseke’ as a souvenir of their visit or a gift for their friends.

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