We want to thank Diane Kidman at An Uncommon Threadfor reviewing and loving our Goatskin Tie Dye Purse. We love it too, but it is so nice to have someone like Diane, not only like it, but appreciate our efforts to promote Fair Trade. Read more about this great blog and see what they have to say about our goatskin purse.
In the West African nation of Senegal, artisans style out metal discards.
Cool, urban and offbeat are all words we can aptly use to describe the artisans and creations of Soweto Village in Dakar, Senegal. To get a feel for Soweto village, imagine yourself weaving through a maze of crowded streets in noisy Dakar, trying your best to employ the spotty French you wish you’d brushed up on before landing. After you finally admit to yourself that you’re completely lost, you unexpectedly come face-to-face with a hip young Senegalese man wearing patchwork pants, his beautifully manicured dreadlocks descending from under his matching tam. He smiles in welcome, and as you eyeball a melee of funky little recycled metal Volkswagen Beetles on a table behind him, you relax. Soweto Village has found you.
The artisans’ medium of choice are bottle caps and recycled aluminum and tin from boldly printed coffee, tomato, sardine, pop and beer cans, the discards of daily life that are always in ready supply in this frenetic West African destination. Vivid colors seem central to West African advertising, and the Arabic, French, English and even Wolof phrases decorating the metal cans add even more eye appeal and cultural distinction.
When Swahili Imports first sampled the creative vision of Mbeye and Jacque, the small workshop’s artisans were focusing mainly on sporty bicycle and motorbike sculptures, constructed to include realistic details and moving parts. Since the motorbikes instantly sold like hot cakes, we branched out together to create some more bestsellers. So far, so good.
To build on our escalating wheeled vehicle craze, we brought a Vespa-style scooter sculpture into the line. From the recycled rubber on the wheels (which really roll) to the plastic windshield cut from a clear jug, every piece of the scooter is recycled. Mod revivalists must be strolling about in stores everywhere, because the reception to these cool sculptures by professional buyers at swahiliwholesale.com has been overwhelmingly positive.
We love art for art’s sake, but nothing makes us happier than art with a purpose. That’s why we worked together with Soweto to create with this year’s storage collection, which includes an umbrella holder, two sizes of buckets (complete with bales) and three sizes of decorative display cans with handles. We designed the pieces fully expecting these visually intense home décor accessories to only appeal to the niche recycling-friendly audience, but there’s something about them that’s already capturing the imagination of shoppers across the board. They’ll be available at swahilimodern.com in 2012.
Recycling and a love for growing things often go hand in hand, so we created decorative watering cans for all the gardeners out there. We’ve found the largest to be a great starting point for a cool floral arrangement, and the smallest is diminutive enough to serve as a holiday ornament. Look for these unique items in 2012, also.
As we continue to develop our relationship with Soweto Village, we keep imagining more useful and purely decorative items we can style out of recycled metal to meet the demand for tastefully designed yet consciously constructed home décor. Keep an eye on swahilimodern.com for arriving recycled creations, and always feel free to share your ideas for rubbish redemption!
Proof of the timeless appeal of zebra print comes strolling down catwalks and popping up between catalog pages every year. From haute couture gowns to bedding to handbags to shoes, zebra print seems to be the go-to pattern to up the ante for dramatic effect.
At Swahili Imports, we’re never quite content to just see a beautiful object as a beautiful object, perhaps because so many traditional objects in Africa have an underlying meaning. We can’t seem to help but ponder on ironies and implications once the contemporary objects that we dream up with our artisans become realities. At the top of mind today are our new Mudcloth Zebra Print textiles from Mali.
In nature, zebra stripes serve as a camouflage mechanism, preventing colorblind predators from differentiating the animal in the tall savanna grass. Zebras are very social animals, and no two zebras have the same stripe pattern (even though I must admit, they all look pretty similar to me, a non-zebra).
Now for the ironies. When adapted to the home or wardrobe, zebra print can hardly be considered camouflage. Instantly a focal point, zebra print pops among other colors and patterns, perhaps because the more plentiful photoreceptors in our eyes, called rods, cannot differentiate between colors, but easily discern black and white in both dim and bright lighting. In the savanna, you wear a zebra coat to hide and survive. In the human world, if you want something to stand up and be noticed, you give it a zebra coat.
Zebras may be social creatures, but the strength-in-numbers mentality does not translate when piecing together a room or wardrobe with zebra print. We’ve all seen the mesmerizing results of a head-to-toe zebra print outfit, or imagined the mental taxation of resting in a bedding ensemble completely patterned with stripes. To get the most appealing impact from zebra print without visually assaulting oncoming traffic, less is always more. A pair of zebra print shoes can set off a solid colored suit, but no shoes on Earth could pare down the damage done by a zebra print suit. With this in mind, we kept the number of, size of and distance between stripes on our new textile line in check, opting for an abstract representation rather than striving to squeeze as many stripes into the field as possible.
Our zebra print textiles have been well received so far, but we have been challenged by a few buyers to ensure that every piece look exactly as pictured on the website. Thankfully we can refer back to nature, reminding those fastidious souls that no zebra’s coat is the same as another’s…nor shall any of our Malian table runners be exactly the same as the one on the site. It’s Mother Nature’s rule, not ours.
To view our line of zebra print textiles, and other zebra items now available at swahilimodern.com, click here.