Local ladies have a unique opportunity this month to get their perfect beach cover-up with the limited edition sarongs from San Diego based Songa Designs — while at the same time doing something good for humanity.
In collaboration with Mrembo Africa, based in Nairobi, the company employs Kenyan and Rwandan women artisans to create uniquely designed sarongs and buckles. Both Songa (which means “the path forward” in Swahili) Designs and Mrembo Africa are dedicated to “uplifting women, empowering African artisans with socio-economical support and entrepreneur skills to reach economic independence and improve their living standards.”
The aptly titled “Unity Sarong,” available only while supplies last, is hand-dyed with eco-friendly inks in a soak pit by Kenyan artists then hand-tasseled. They come in two colors, fuchsia and cobalt blue. Described by Songa as “urban tribal,” the dying combines specific Kenyan technique with the Songa esthetic. For $38, the soft cotton sarong comes paired with a horn buckle and a hand-woven sisal leaf buckle made by Rwandan artisans.
Songa Designs founder Sara Sternberg firmly believes collaborations, such as the Unity Sarong, strengthen artists in Africa.
“It’s important to me that we set an example among the various artisan groups in Africa,” Sternberg said. “This collaboration with Mrembo is another way to expand our mission to bring equality and economic independence to women in underprivileged communities.”
Alice Eshuchi, founder of Mrembo Africa agrees and envisions a powerful impact on modern fashion and design.
“This is an exciting opportunity to see diverse traditional skills manifested in the crafts of the women of Africa being channeled into new markets,” said Eshuchi. “Vibrant African motifs uniquely enhance modern designs and create new and exciting additions to the world of fashion.”
In fact, the appropriately named Mrembo translates to “Beautiful woman.”
Songa works in collaboration with an impressive 175 women artisans, while Mrembo Africa, an up-and-coming organization, already works with 16 women and counting, along with a disabled gentleman who trains the women on tailoring, stitching, and design. Empowered by partnerships like these, women artisans in countries including Kenya and Rwanda can provide vital necessities like running water and electricity to their homes.
Avid art-fashion lovers can also find a variety of home decor items and accessories at Songa Designs, including bracelets, necklaces, and earrings, all in natural materials including banana leaf fiber, re-purposed cow horn, sisal, pewter, and paper beads. Find Songa Designs at songadesigns.com. Look for Songa to begin appearing in local shops, including Simply Local in North Park in September.
Laurie Delk is an avid art historian, holding a master’s degree in Art History, with concentrations in the Modern and Postmodern movements. She has taught classes at Tulane University, and has been published with several art publications including Sculpture Magazine and New Orleans Art Review. Send ideas for art stories to email@example.com.