Growing up my mum had a brown and white china tea and dinner set, depicting traditional English scenes rendered in the French toile style. It was a set that had pride of place in the display cabinet and came with the implicit understanding we were not allowed to touch. My siblings and I would peer at it through the glass, fascinated at the detail and delicateness of it, making up stories about the images portrayed. The thing that strikes me most about that set was how it was reserved for special occasions only, and even then it hardly ever came out to play, usually for Christmas dinner. And the sad thing about it is today that set is packed away in storage back home in Zimbabwe, and has been for the last eight or so years since my parents came to live in the UK. I was reminded of the set when I chanced upon the exquisite, and what I personally think is truly special African Design inspired; Liberia Tea Collection from New York based, Southern Hemisphere Design Group (SoHe Designs). [Image credit: SoHe Designs/James Dee]
[Image credit: SoHe Designs/James Dee] Originally designed to honour the legacy of freed African American slaves, the Liberia Tea Collection takes inspiration from the French toile style but gives it a unique African design inspired twist by depicting scenes from African and global village culture, all intricately portrayed on porcelain tea sets, dessert bowls and pitchers. I was moved by the reactions to the collection documented on the website as follows: ‘In Brooklyn, family members gathered around and declared “At last!”. In Atlanta women’s eyes filled with tears. A woman of Puerto Rican heritage wept as she explained the village scene reminded her of her grandparents’ farm. My seamstress from Sri Lanka declared it looked like her country. Those from the Caribbean, Africa and South America get it!’ – all a testament to the significance of the collection created by the talented Barbara Garnes, who set up SoHe Designs in 2006 as a way to bring culturally inspired home décor to the US public. Her collections include bedding, dinner and tableware.
[Image credit: SoHe Designs/James Dee] The Liberia Tea Collection is about creating family heirlooms that will tell our story to future generations and is a poignant, touching sentiment paying homage to the past and the simpler days of traditional village life that have helped nurture the foundations for our futures. With urbanisation redefining the ‘village’, it is evermore important to maintain our connections to the community and encourage our talents. Marking the arrival of a brand new year provides the opportunity to give thanks, celebrate, learn and reflect on the achievements and failures of the past year to help shape the future, as people traditionally outline their resolutions and hopes for the year ahead. The last decade saw the explosion of Africa’s creative talent, particularly with regards to African design and fashion; aided by the passion of predominately African bloggers and writers spreading the word. As the year progresses and a new decade dawns let us pledge to continue supporting and promoting our African creative businesses, designers and producers to the wider world, because if we don’t then who else will?
Available in Indigo and Cranberry, the Liberia Tea Collection would make a wonderful gift, acting as a powerful reminder of our roots and is a way of record-keeping that will bring its own special meaning to each owner; and more importantly is a tea set that should be used to create those memories, and not sit on the shelf gathering dust!
So strive for greatness, give back, build upon the past and Happy New Year everybody!
Prices shown for the Liberia Tea Collection range from: US$22-US$159
International shipping is available (With plans to expand to international retailers). To inquire visit: www.sohedesigngroup.com
For further information on SoHe Designs and stockists visit: www.sohedesigngroup.com
Currently stocked at the following outlets:
– Angborki Doe Designs, Chicago. IL, Tel: (773) 731-2650
– Our World Boutique, Buffalo, NY, Tel: (716) 903-0449
– Zambezi Bazaar, Los Angeles, CA, Tel: (323) 299–6383
– Ethniciti, www.ethniciti.com