Collection Stories


Ngao, which means shield in Kiswahili, is a prominent symbol for defense of freedom on the Kenyan national flag. Inspired by the Maasai Shield, the ‘Elongo’, is an important artifact with not only practical use but also fine arts features. The Maasai are known for being superior warriors and bravery. A Maasai warrior shield was not only used for hunting and warfare but also believed to have protection of a symbolic nature. Shields were valued objects and symbols of identification. Different designs were used to distinguish complex lineage identification systems, age sets and the various Maasai sub-communities. Each shield is made by the warrior, the surface decorated with large, nearly symmetrical crescents in red, white and black.



The Ndebele, also called Transvaal Ndebele, people primarily located in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces in South Africa, use intricate beadworks, elaborate wall paintings and distinctive ways of dressing to express their identity and culture. Primarily known for their artwork, Ndebele women use the wall art as means to express themselves and their self-worth. These intricate and colorful patterns are placed on the walls of their houses. Designs are planned beforehand, painted on freehand without prior layouts. They use their innovativeness in choice of colors and design intricacy to distinguish themselves from their peers. The backside and side walls of the house are often painted in earth color tones and adorned with simple geometric shapes outlined in black. Special care is given to the front walls of the house, where innovative and complex designs are painted in the brightest of colors. The Ndebele are also known for their beadwork. The different types of bead adornments convey messages of social connotations such as age sets and stages of growth from childhood to adulthood.



The evolution of basket weaving on the continent of Africa has been influenced by landscape and by lifestyle amongst agro-pastoralists, hunter gatherers, and subsistence farmers. The tradition of handcrafted production connects culture, nature, and survival, and the woven basket is a perfect example of this coalescence. The product is in effect an historical ‘document’ embodying cultural identity and cultural survival, in effect a sustainable economic good. Learning to make baskets across Africa is an education by osmosis. Mothers and grandmothers pass the knowledge on to their daughters and granddaughters through the years.The range and style of these natural fibre containers across the continent is breathtaking: from the Sahel in the west to the coastal plains of the east, and from the bushveld of the south to the highlands of Ethiopia - the humble basket embodies the very spirit of Africa and its people.  



The Cross of Lalibela (La.Lee.Bela) mirrors a processional cross that has been adopted by the sacred rock churches of Lalibela, in Northern Ethiopia. Its intricate designs are believed to draw various inspirational references. Among the few are depiction of the points of a compass to proclaim God’s equal existence in all directions and the tips of a spearhead to symbolize the Seal of Solomon, King of Israel. Traditionally, this cross is worn by women as a pendant on a blue or black silk thread, known as Mateb.


 The cross of Aksum (Ak.Soom) is inspired from well-known processional cross in Northern Ethiopia. A combination of spherical shapes and patterns, the intricate designs of the cross are believed to draw several biblical references to make symbolic representations, including that of crown of thorns, Garden of Eden, and the radiant sun to symbolize the divine nature and endless age of God. Traditionally, this cross is worn by women as a pendant on a blue or black silk thread, known as Mateb. 



The Woriro (Wo-Ree-Ro), traditionally worn by women in Wollo, from Northern Ethiopia, signifies an item of beauty. There are different types of Woriro, each reflecting the status of the wearer. Also used as a household item, it is customary for a bride to be gifted a Woriro on her wedding day. The intricate diamond patterns on the necklace are inspired from centuries-old weaving traditions of the Dorze (Door-Zay) people from Southern Ethiopia. Once fearsome warriors, and later turned peaceful artisans, their luxurious attire with master craftsmanship was once worn by royal families and dignitaries. At the heart of the necklace, is a semi-precious Chrysoprase or Quartz South Ethiopian gemstone, mined by local artisanal miners in Ethiopia.


Inspired from unique craftsmanship in Northern Ethiopia & Eritrea, the Tsirur (Tse-roo) design is believed to evoke a display of grace and dignity. The design intricacy - known as filigree technique- introduced to goldsmiths of Northern Ethiopia by Greek and Armenian artisans, due to ancient and enduring trade routes that exposed Eastern Ethiopia to other parts of the world about two centuries ago. Traditionally, Tsirur along with other adornments, are worn by women for social occasions to show their social status and wealth.



The  Hayzo Dorze Tilet diamond  patterns draw inspiration from centuries-old, weaving traditions of the Dorze (Dor-Zay) people from Southern Ethiopia. Once fearsome warriors, they transitioned to peaceful artistry and are now mostly known for their highly specialized skills in creating handwoven cotton dresses with colorful embroidery, known as Tibeb (T-bub). Traditionally, their work of luxurious attire was worn by royal families and dignitaries.




The intricate design of the Telsom (See-loom) square domes draws design inspirations from Central Ethiopia, which is traditionally worn as a necklace pendant, to symbolize love and commitment. The Telsom half-moon design is inspired by one of Ethiopia’s iconic necklace designs, dating back centuries. Traditionally, forged in silver and gold, it is worn as a necklace, strung on a mateb (a silk or cotton thread) by people in Central Ethiopia. There are different shapes and forms of this iconic design, embodying an acknowledgement of faith.


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