Already a CH favorite, Oroma Elewa has just stepped it up a notch, launching her online store. As expected, it's a place to admire (and purchase) some of the most beautiful items that she has collected over the course of her extensive, adventurous travels. Elewa has always found inspiration in African culture, and it's yet another way that she is shining a light on the vibrant, creative and intriguing treasures that she finds there.
More than anything, Elewa's shop revolves around the importance of visiting and understanding other cultures—it's not just about taking bits and pieces from them. "I travel at least once a year. And when I do, I spend a good amount of time in that particular place. There’s so much to discover in every African country, city or town. My bucket list is still so long. I am always curious about places I’ve only read about in books or seen in film, but I tend to be drawn to places that give me great peace, places where time slows down a bit, where the people are as kind as they are hospitable."
She tells CH, "Traveling gives you perspective. It’s really amazing how much you learn, see and absorb. There is no romanticizing the idea of any place until you have visited, eaten and gotten sick from the food, gotten better, found a favorite spot, made a real connection, spoken a line or two in the local language, played with children, gotten yourself a nickname, and understood how your life could possibly make sense there. Traveling strengthens me, I always leave renewed and, of course, with bags of stunning finds." And now, those finds are available to those who weren't able to tag along with Elewa on her travels.
Whether it's raffia clutches made in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; striking silver jewelry from Mali; or wooden combs found in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Elewa has collected a true treasure trove from all corners of Africa—and everything has a story attached. "I have had a few opportunities to meet some of the makers of the items I’ve purchased. I’ve met raffia hat-weavers from Northern Nigeria, Ashoké/Akwaete textile-weavers in a village called Akweate in Nigeria. Much like Addire, the Ashoké (which is the Yoruba term) and Akweate (the Igbo term) is a traditional, highly regarded hand-loomed material unique to Nigeria. I’ve had the honor to chat with the very talented women who carry on this old tradition," she says.
Some pieces Elewa commissions and waits for, others she stumbles across in marketplaces and chance meetings. It's an organic process, but one that means a lot to her: "I love each item so much and very differently. They all individually ignite very different feelings in me and serve very different purposes. Some items are functional; others are strictly decorative so there’s the aspect of which you’ll tend to use more. But I will say this: because I love each item so much, I make sure I own one of every piece I sell." The connections, people and stories that are attached to each item are as important to Elewa as the products themselves. Her goods aren't just trinkets, they're special and significant and are meant to be cherished.
While the store is being stocked slowly, Elewa is in no way rushing it—she wants the platform to evolve and grow naturally. She says, "There’s so much I haven’t put up. I am moving organically. I’m taking my time. I want to enjoy the process."
All items selected by Oroma Elewa are available online, with prices starting at $25.
Images courtesy of Oroma Elewa