Lekazia Turner, embroiderer from Jamaica, 2022

6 Artisans supported KISANY
RWANDA | 2018

SECTION OF DRESS: From Darkness to Light

A collaborative work created by a group of strong and vibrant women rebuilding their lives with the help of embroidery

Annonciata, Dancila, Donata, Dorothee, Rose & Valerie

KISANY is a Belgian social entreprise dedicated to building an economy of skilled and financially independent artisans in DR Congo and Rwanda. For over fifteen years, they have offered training and work to vulnerable women and the result is two flourishing partner ateliers, fulfilling local and international projects, and more than 1300 lives transformed.

Words below are written by founder Nicole Esselen:

“From Darkness to Light was created by 6 women, part of the Aproade group in Kigali, Rwanda. They told me that it was the first time that all of them had worked on 1 piece together, a very bonding experience. All these women have lived through the genocide and lost families, relatives, children. For them it has been hell which they embroidered in black, this tiny place where they felt constricted, sad, angry, desperate.

With the years passing, the healing process started too and they breathed more freely with every year passing by. Life was stronger than death. The circle becomes wider and wider to take the whole space, an image of the space they are capable to take again while the sun rays symbolise their expansion.” 

To contact Nicole to arrange commissions please see the Kisany website : https://www.kisany.com/


A huge thank you to all who have given their time, energy, enthusiasm, advice, experience and financial support to the Red Dress project over the years.

In addition to the institutions below, funding has been gratefully received from a number of private donations and 441 individuals around the world via 2 Crowdfunding campaigns in 2020 and 2022.

Nothing expresses more eloquently the feelings I suspect we share about the importance of embroidery in our lives, and the support we derive from the friendships made through stitch, than Kirstie Macleod’s Red Dress.
Caroline Zoob, Editor of Stitchers Journal 2022
This beautiful object highlights the common ground between individuals, bringing together different identities and uniting people, we are honoured to contribute to it.
Tiny Kox, PACE President at the Council of Europe, Strasbourg 2023
The Red Dress has become an icon of the international textile world.
Suzanne Smith, Textile Society 2022
The Red Dress in its final incarnation, a magnificent, regal robe, symbolises the empowerment of women through the creation of something beautiful, something which began with bowed heads and tired fingers but also with faith and joy, an openness and willingness to be a part of something which they could not see at that time but in which they could believe had meaning and worth connecting with other women around the world.
Lady Alison Myners, Chair of the Royal Academy Trust 2020
The Red Dress is in some respects similar to Mail Art, the populist artistic movement centred on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s – but on a larger scale – the journey of the work is part of its identity, process, and in fact function. A signifier of the temporal and physical nature of the process inherent in the creation of the piece. The surface of the dress layered with embroidery slowly transforming into a specific topographical map – completely particular to the work’s journey – and reflective of the burgeoning sculptural landscape of the object.
Paul Black, Artlyst 2015
It’s her (Kirstie’s) red silk Dupion bodice and voluminous skirt created for the Red Dress that fully demonstrates her commitment to embroidery and the immense respect for the international community of makers.
Denna Jones. Embroidery Magazine 2010
...the fact that they could embroider what they wanted and that it is appreciated has given them some strength, some confidence that I didn’t feel so strongly before they created the embroideries.
Nicole Esselan, Founder of Kisany Africa, supporting artisans in DR CONGO and RWANDA who created embroidery on the Red Dress in 2018
This is both an extraordinary work of collective art and profound and eloquent social commentary. It is also an example of how potent the Attire language is capable of becoming.
Attires Mind (Fashion Blogger) 2020
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