Fashion Entrepreneur Sews Fabric of Peace in Northeastern DR Congo Rife with Violence
Under the shadow of violence that has plagued the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for decades, local fashion entrepreneurs are longing to stitch hopes and sew the fabric of peace by making their own clothing line.
For Patrick Muhindo, a fashion maker who started his own clothing line and sewing workshop called “Kuliko Art” in Goma, capital of DRC’s North-Kivu province, the year of 2021 has not been an easy journey for fashion makers like himself.
“The year of 2021 is not easy, we all know it. But we still managed to advance against all kinds of adversity,” said Muhindo.
Though the bell of 2022 rang more than a week ago, Goma is still in mourning for the deadly suicide attack on Christmas night in the nearby city of Beni, let alone the looming fear over the Nyiragongo volcanic eruption and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The North-Kivu province, which has been under the state of siege since May 2021, has lost more than 2,000 innocent souls to armed rebels and militants in 2021, according to Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a respected monitor on eastern DRC.
Launched in January 2020, the sewing workshop has earned its fandom over the past months, with its hand-made slippers, handbags, knitwear, and other ready-to-wear items that exuberate with African style.
With a new collection coming up each week for the clothing line, Muhindo has been able to launch several local fashion shows.
Business and fashion dreams all aside, as one of the victims traumatized by the decades-long violence and turmoil, Muhindo in particular eyes the power of fashion and style, so as to stitch hope and sew the fabric of peace for his hometown and people.
“Through fashion, we try to make a statement of cohabitation and peace. All this is done by mixing the colors and fabrics that we put in our collections. Thus, each collection conveys a message of peace, equality, and peaceful coexistence,” said Muhindo.
For him, each piece and each color of the collection speak their own language and send a special message. “For example, a garment is composed of several colors and each color has its own meaning. The blue color represents unity and the white color represents peace,” said the Congolese fashion entrepreneur.
In May 2021, Muhindo created “Maison Kuliko,” a special project dedicated to training young girls aged 12 to 20 in turning needlework and handcrafting their bread and butter and windows of opportunity.
“We started with a training on women’s leadership in the art sector,” explained Muhindo, adding that the training program aims to put into action the gender equality that girls and women also share the chance to thrive on their own.
He believes the sewing workshop also offers a chance for talented designers and stylists who seek the chance to step into the fashion industry.
“In our community, you can easily spot creative and brave young people. This is why I hope my workshop could one day inspire young talent in Goma to pursue their dream in fashion,” said Muhindo.
Content courtesy of Xinhua & NFH Digital Team