Anyango Mpinga draws inspiration from contemporary art and her rich, multi-cultural, Luo and Sukuma heritage through which she weaves a tapestry of modern and traditional elements to create elegant, ready to wear pieces that are authentic in design and timeless in appeal.
THE LITERARY DISENTHRALLMENT COLLECTION – 2018
The 2018 Collection “Literary Disenthrallment” is a collection about the emancipation of women beyond the social construct of gender inequality. The Collection is inspired by a voyage to Lamu Island. Lamu town is Kenya’s oldest continually inhabited town, and was one of the original Swahili settlements along coastal East Africa. The period from the late 17th century to early 19th century marks the town’s golden age, when Lamu was a center of poetry, politics, arts and crafts as well as trade. Many of the buildings of the town were constructed during this period in a distinct classical style with intricate carvings on walls and doors.
Aside from its thriving arts and crafts trading, Lamu became a literary and scholastic center. One particular poet who stands out is Mwana Kupona, a pioneer 19th Century woman who was famed for her poem Utendi wa Mwana Kupona (“The Book of Mwana Kupona”), which is one of the most well-known works of early Swahili Literature, on an Island that thrived on the slave trade until it’s abolition in 1907. She was the widow of the influential and famous Sheikh Mataka bin Mbaraka, known for waging war against the Sultan of Zanzibar. She enjoyed a higher status and greater freedom in Lamu than was the convention in Kenya during that time. In anticipation of her death, she wrote a poem for her 14 year old daughter Mwana Heshima, to guide her through life as she learned about love and marriage. It later became a book that talks about this secular subject on women whilst also remaining religious and to some point mysterious using archaic Swahili words and quoting the Islamic Calendar.
Whilst on my trip to Lamu with friends, I happened to stumble upon a fascinatingly beautiful dragonfly in the kitchen floor of the house we rented. The dragonfly carries the symbolism of transformation and change; a change in perspective of self-realization. This is the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of a deeper meaning of life. The female dragonfly has the ability to fake its own death when faced with an unwanted male harassing her for sex. This is her way of asserting her freedom and her right to choose when to mate with a potential partner.
We live in a world where women still live in fear of their safety and unwanted sexual advances from their male counterparts whether it’s in the workplace, at home or in the streets and this is a global problem making us slaves in an era when freedom is a right every girl and woman should enjoy regardless of their social or economic background. This collection is a powerful response to the shaming of women who speak up for themselves; it is a call for a change in perspective when it comes to how society handles sexual and emotional abuse at personal and institutional levels. It is an ode to the women who have disenthralled themselves from abusive situations; whether professional or personal with the hope that society can evolve from a narrative that is devoid of equality. Both Lamu architecture and the dragonfly influenced my print design; drawing inspiration from traditional wall carving textures to create timeless patterns.
“Take this amulet
tie it with cord and caring
I’ll make you a chain of coral and pearl
to glow on your neck. I’ll dress you nobly.
A gold clasp too – fine, without flaw
to keep with you always.
When you bathe, sprinkle perfume, and weave your hair in braids
string jasmine for the counterpane.
Wear your clothes like a bride,
for your feet anklets, bracelets for your arms…
Don’t forget rosewater,
don’t forget henna for the palms of your hands.”
Poem: Excerpt from Utendi wa Mwana Kupona by Mwana Kupona Binti Sham (Pate Island -1858)
Translated from Swahili by J.W. Allen, Adapted by Deidre Bashgari
THE PROVERBIAL DREAMER COLLECTION – 2017
The prints from this collection are adapted from actual scarification patterns from various tribes across Africa such as the Akan people of the Congo basin in West Africa, the Toposa people from South Sudan and the Bodi from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. This collection explores various ways of promoting a positive body image for all women, who at various stages in their lives wear both visible and invisible scars. Rather than hiding them, these scars must be celebrated as a mark of beauty and strength.
THE KONDO UDO COLLECTION – 2016
The Kondo Udo collection is inspired by the traditional headdress worn by tribal warriors and dancers from Anyango’s Luo tribe from Kenya. The ostrich in Luo culture is viewed as a symbol of great beauty and strength. The headdress, which is made of ostrich feathers, is used as a way of charming individuals who encounter the wearer.