Written by Liz London
An affinity for global design comes with a responsibility to understand what it is we’re wearing, designing, decorating with, or wearing as costume elements. It’s easy to love an aesthetic without having any idea that it’s riddled with sacred symbology. Not valuing cultural integrity might very well mean that one day you’ll be sporting a shawl around your hips that you thought was cute, only to discover that it’s a textile covered in quotes from sacred text that is typically only hung in a temple. It can be daunting, yes, trying to research every symbol on textiles that you like to ensure it’s secular or simply a pretty swirl. But here is a merchant who sells designs infused with the power of West African symbology who you can trust has put in the legwork to maintain cultural integrity.
I recently discovered Tribal Immunity – a brand of gorgeous handbags and accessories with a West African tribal-chic flair. Owner Tamara Kae personally designs and creates each piece, fusing symbology from her personal heritage (African, Jamaican, and Newark New Jersian) with contemporary design techniques. Fortunately for her (and all of us!), both of Tamara’s parents were creative artisans, and Tribal Immunity was born after she discovered a set of stamps from Ghana in her basement. She started stamping the tribal images on her clothing and accessories and realized she was on to something.
But she didn’t stop there – this is the part that I love even more. Tamara researches her heritage, the designs she is inspired by, and everything involved in her work to ensure its cultural integrity.
“Tribal Immunity celebrates the contributions of Africans worldwide through visual arts, independent research, and education.”
The Tribal Immunity website shares some of her research, including this downloadable Adinkra Guide to West African symbology, which includes many of the symbols often seen on their products. Here are a few common symbols and their meanings:
How great would you feel sporting a gorgeous tribal-inspired bag, emblazened with the symbol of ‘dwennimmen’ as a reminder of the balance between strength and humility? Or the sentiment of learning from our past with the ancestral-referencing symbol of “sankofa…”
So download the guide to learn more about these symbols, and head to Tribal Immunity’s website to shop or learn more about her process.
*All images from Tribal Immunity. I do not receive payment or sponsorship for this blog.
Tribal Immunity website: www.tribalimmunity.com
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/tribalimmunity/
Or Instagram: @tribalimmunity