From Batsinda to Ghent in Belgium: Sankoh’s journey in promoting Rwanda’s artisanal excellence

By Karirima Aimable Ngarambe
On 21 August 2023 at 03:45

Sophie Sankoh, a Belgian with roots from Sierra Leone, embraces life in the charming city of Ghent, nestled in the enchanting landscapes of Northwestern Belgium, precisely within Flanders Province.

As a nurturing mother of three, Sankoh’s journey intertwines with that of her Rwandan partner, creating a culturally rich and diverse family tapestry.

Professionally, she shines as a vital asset at the Xerius Center, a hub of empowerment where aspiring entrepreneurs find their wings to soar.

What sets Sankoh apart is her fervent collaboration with talented Rwandan artisans. Through intricate connections, she sources their captivating handicrafts, acting as a bridge that brings the heart and soul of Rwandan craftsmanship to the European market. Her efforts not only uplift individuals but also celebrate the artistry and heritage of a distant land.

In an exclusive interview with IGIHE, Sankoh fondly reminisced about her maiden voyage to Rwanda in August 2022. The trip was sparked by her friends’ wedding, which provided her with the opportunity to explore the enchanting corners of Kigali. This journey led her to encounter the skilled artisans whose expertise spanned sewing, weaving, and fashioning clothing that embodied the essence of "Made in Rwanda."

"It was an artistic revelation for me. Witnessing the skill and passion these artisans poured into their creations, I was captivated. I acquired some of their products, sharing them with colleagues and friends who resonated with their charm," Sankoh articulated.

Fuelled by her newfound admiration for Rwanda, Sankoh embarked on a return journey to the homeland of her husband and children. Mere months later, she embarked on a venture that would amplify the presence of "Made in Rwanda" products in Europe. Collaborating with women’s cooperatives in Rwanda, Sankoh acquired a substantial inventory of intricately crafted bags that soon captured the hearts of European clientele.

"One of the most fascinating aspects is that my circle of colleagues and friends cherish the authenticity of handmade goods. I supplement this by sharing visuals of the artisans and their creative sanctuaries, evoking genuine joy," Sankoh disclosed.

During her Rwandan sojourn, Sankoh ventured to Batsinda in the Gasabo District, a locale abuzz with women weaving an array of wondrous items.

Recognizing the allure and superior quality of their crafts, Sankoh fostered a symbiotic partnership aimed at procuring and distributing these treasures overseas.

"My motivation stemmed from the realization that unity enhances their artistic prowess, prompting my desire to contribute via a mutually rewarding partnership," Sankoh reflected with a contemplative smile.

Beyond her entrepreneurial pursuits, Sankoh embarked on a noble mission.

Collaborating with various individuals, she initiated fundraising campaigns to support the children of these skilled female artisans. This initiative encompassed essential school supplies, sports attire, and now extends to providing computers for the young learners.

"Nothing brings me more joy than showcasing the very best of Rwanda, sharing its soul with kindred spirits who, like me, hold it in deep affection. The synergy of passion and purpose is truly unparalleled," Sankoh revealed.

For those keen to delve into Sankoh’s journey, she welcomes inquiries.

Reach out at +32484906763, write to [email protected], or visit the vibrant world she curates at Www.sankoshi.com

Juggling her commitment to another profession, Sankoh contemplates a future realignment. "I envision a transition, fully dedicating myself to the exquisite offerings from Rwanda. Their original allure resonates profoundly with the discerning tastes of many."

Sankoh’s narrative is a testament to how one individual’s appreciation for authentic craftsmanship can bridge continents, fostering connections that celebrate both artistry and shared humanity.

Sophie Sankoh is a Belgian with roots from Sierra Leone.
Sophie Sankoh is a mother of three.
Sankoh's efforts have seen Made in Rwanda clothes available in Ghent City.
IGIHE journalist looking at Made in Rwanda garments retailed by Sophie Sankoh.
During her Rwandan sojourn, Sankoh was attracted by women weaving an array of wondrous items for the allure and superior quality of their crafts.
Bags are among Made in Rwanda products sold by Sankoh.