When it comes to wearing the African spirit ethnic look authenticity can be key.
For many it’s not simply about an aesthetic, it’s about age-old traditions and craftsmanship, and sensing the rhythm and spirit of Africa through handiwork and indigenous materials.
Go on, sense the African spirit, have the African ethnic look
By Edwina Ings-Chamber Published: April 8 2005 13:01 Financial
Already, Kenya-based names such as Carolyn Roumeguere, a jewellery designer who works with Masai beads, and Anna
Trzebinski, whose beaded accessories and trimmed shawls have become sought after wardrobe staples, have proved that there’s an international luxury market for ethnic pieces.
“I hope that my work reflects a point in history where we have realised that mass production and global branding are just one sign of what has happened to us,” explains an impassioned
Now there’s a new kid in town. Antonella Smeby,who describes herself as “from Kenya but of Italian blood”, has started to import to Europe her own authentic mix of African
jewellery, throws, and handbags under the Jukali label. “I was born and raised in Kenya and have always had a love for everything African,” she says.
“When you’re in the bush it really feels as though you’re at the beginning of
creation, you feel so small and free and that passion is in these designs; they’re
vivid and mysterious, so rich yet so simple, all at the same time.”
Smeby used to sell African tribal art and though successful at it (it is still a sideline) felt she wanted to show more of the creative diversity Kenya had to offer.
“I wanted to show how much talent is coming out of Kenya. There are a lot of expats living there using local people and local designers and making
jewellery, bags and clothes in beautiful leathers with wonderful beading and things gathered from all over Africa. Even the weekday Masai market for the locals is full of the most incredible things, and I wanted to show them to Europe.”
Smeby selects pieces from five designers and a group of traders from the Masai market that she represents, and is careful to choose styles that she feels “have an African feel but are very modern and classic as well as cross-seasonal”.
So leather belts have large mother-of-pearl squares set in silver; chokers made from fine strands of semi-precious stones are festooned with gold coins to highlight the collarbone while simple Masai wedding chokers are engulfed by tiny beads; suede handbags are lightly embellished with brass amulets or horn and mother-of- pearl carvings; a graphic black and white clutch bag is made from goatskin with leather stitched detailing; and impossible-to-lose key rings are made from
conker-sized Masai beads.
Crucially, Smeby has kept her pricing as reasonable as possible. Though prices can go as high at £1,500, they start from £50.
And though she has even incorporated some Indian elements in her ranges (amulets and silver mangoes – a fertility symbol in India – dangle from many necklaces), ultimately this is an ode to Africa.
Says Smeby: “The way you feel when you wear them, the smell of the leather, the colours of the sunsets, it’s all there; you feel as though you’re living and breathing Africa.”
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Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart
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