The Bwindi Local Wood Carvers Association is a non-profit organization that was started by local woodcarvers, with the aim of promoting technical education among local artists and children in Buhoma. Our group has currently 32 members of all ages (from children to adults).
Today wildlife resources are facing a lot of pressure, and there is a need to advocate for coexistence with threatened wildlife species, especially the mountain gorillas of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC, which are at risk of extinction. Thus there is the need to create public awareness to protect gorillas and their natural habitat to conserve for the next generation.
As Bwindi Local Woodcarvers Association, we believe we can play an important part in the protection of endangered species. That is why we go an extra mile with our art to promote the theme “Conserving mountain gorillas through woodcarving”.
What we do:
Young children create drawings and post card art, while older youth and adults carve wood into different animals. We carve mainly gorillas (statues, masks, walking sticks, key-rings, ear-rings, and fridge magnets), lions, elephants, and occasionally several other animal species. If you are looking for something, please let us know and we will handcarve it. Lately we also venture into furniture (beds, chairs, tables) with the theme of “African authentic handmade furniture”.
Location of our workshop:
We are located in the Bwindi southern ward of Buhoma, Kanungu District, next to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. We are on the main road, approximately 100 meters before the entrance of the park, opposite of Bwindi bar.
The group was started by Rutaro Onesmus. His teacher is Augastine Muhagyi (also known as Rasta). Augastine began carving gorilla statues out of wood at the age of 13 after learning the art by studying for several months with wood carvers in Congo. As a very small child, Rutaro enjoyed observing Augastine carving in his workshop and developed a passion for carving, too. After learning the art from Augastine, Rutaro and Augastine decided to collaborate and create a group for wood carvers called the Bwindi Local Wood Carvers Association.
Types of wood we use for carving:
We use wood of the African Brown Mahogany and Markhamia Lutea trees. Both are hardwood trees, that can grow up to 50 meters high, especially in the tropical climate of Bwindi. The wood is carefully sourced through the sustainable practice of afforestation, reforestation and selective cutting, to promote the health of the trees. For every tree that we cut, 2 to 5 trees are planted. Please note that we do not cut trees from the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as we want to support the preservation of gorilla habitat. Instead we grow and cut trees in our family’s owned lands.
We use many types of wood, but primarily Mahogany and Macadamia wood as they are hard woods that can grow up to 65 meters tall and can be used to create beautiful, long-lasting furniture and gorilla carvings.
The tools we use:
As country-bred boys, we rarely use electrical equipment, and our most important tools are the axe and machete (“panga”) for chopping the wood, the hand chisels for detailed carving, and hand-based sand papers to smoothen the surface of the carving. We use black leather dye to turn the wood color from natural colors to black, as well as acting as a preservative so woodeaters bugs don’t eat it. Then finally we apply leather shoe cream to polish the carvings to give them the shiny feel and touch, so that when you touch it, the dye won’t smudge to your hands.
The money earned through selling wood-carved art creations enables us to change lives in many ways.
- People can stop hunting wild animals for meat because they now have the money to purchase the food they need. Many former poachers are now gorilla conservationists!
- Carvers are able to use their earnings to build their own homes and begin raising goats or chickens to provide additional income and nutritious food for their families.
- Carvers are able to pay their children’s school fees, so children are able to attend school.
- People are able to buy locally made, responsibly produced furniture for their homes, supporting and sustaining the local community.
- Wood carvings can be used to tell stories which support the local culture and traditions.
In addition to these benefits, local wood carvers are helping to conserve the environment and prevent deforestation by:
- Teaching community members how to plant and cut trees in a selective, sustainable way.
- Fully utilizing all parts of cut trees which decreases waste and reduces the need to cut more trees.
- Preventing forest fires through community education.
To purchase an item, contact Rutaro via:
- whatsapp number +256 775 181545
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onesmus.rutaro.9
Prices as of April 1, 2023 are listed below. As shipment prices change, please contact Rutaro for latest information.
Scroll further down to see examples of some of the art work!
In addition to purchasing items, you can also support us via donations. We partner with the USA-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Sahaya International, and your donations are tax-deductible. You can also donate via this way if you are not in the USA (but your donation is not tax-deductible). For online donations, you can use the form below. If you like to support us via other ways (such as check), you can go to our donation page to learn more.
Many thanks for the support!
Some of our most popular items are our wooden gorilla statues. Click on each picture to see an enlarged version.