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 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 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.