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By Lisa Hamilton
Afrique Vogue is a Guyanese small business owned by three women working to connect the South American country with South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and others through African cultural fashion items.
Though Guyana is situated over 5,000 miles from Africa, it is widely known that the Caribbean country has a large percentage of Afro-Guyanese with African ancestral roots. Many may not be able to trace their ancestral lineage but nonetheless share an appreciation for the African culture. Afrique Vogue, fairly new to the Guyanese public, has the vision of encouraging citizens to not only focus on their cultural ‘treasures’ on occasions such as Emancipation Day but to see the beauty in it all year round.
It all started through the family’s vacation to countries and continents around the world including Africa. Mother and daughter, Natasha Dublin and 25-year-old Tonia Miller, fell in love with the deeper immersion into the African culture and the creativeness all round.
It left such an impression that when the time came for her to pursue higher studies, Tonia decided to travel to Kenya to study Hotel and Restaurant Management after also receiving positive feedback on the level of teaching offered there. “It was really a good experience because although the school is located there in Kenya, I got to make friends with the different nationalities like Ivory Coast, South Sudanese, South Somalians, Ugandans [and others],” Tonia said, noting that she also got to learn some Kiswahili — one of the official languages in Kenya.
When the family visited Africa, they would often return with gifts and souvenirs for relatives and friends who also fell in love with the uniqueness and quality of the items. Based on the growing interest, the women — along with 20-year-old Towana Miller, another one of Dublin’s daughters — came up with the idea of making a business out of bringing the items directly from Africa back to Guyana for sale.
The three women began on a good note in February 2020, then, only weeks later, the coronavirus began to spread in Guyana and the shipment of the items became difficult. This year, they’ve been working on alternative means to ship the items and on improving marketing.
Currently, the items they bring into the country come from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and elsewhere and are made by the locals from the countries.
The items include clothing such as wrap skirts, dashiki, Ankara and Kente fabric, dera dresses, ankara jumpers and more; footwear such as leather slippers, sandals and African print pumps; jewellery inclusive of Maasai and Zulu necklaces, and an array of bags. The Maasai are an ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, while Zulu people are another ethnic group in Southern Africa.
During her time in Kenya, Tonia said that realised that there are still several similarities, especially in food and dress, between the African culture and the existing Afro-Guyanese culture. “Our main aim is to celebrate and promote African cultures and fashion…I think it’s very important for us to celebrate and recognise where we came from, our culture and the items associated with our culture,” Towana said.
Meanwhile, Tonia encouraged: “I don’t think we should just wait until Emancipation time [to showcase our culture] because we’re 100 percent African all throughout the year, we shouldn’t just celebrate our identity just one day of the year. We should do so through our everyday life and lifestyle.” Currently, Afrique Vogue is an online-based business and offers pickup and delivery services. Persons who have purchased from the business have expressed how pleased they are with the quality, uniqueness and the fact that the items come all the way from African countries. The women remain grateful for the support received and also invite other cultures in Guyana to learn more about the African culture through fashion. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org — Calls/ WhatsApp: +592 649-9578 — Facebook: Afrique Vogue — Instagram: afriquevogue.gy