A Nigerian designer is incorporating artefacts like the famous Benin Bronzes into fashion accessories, hoping to promote the country’s cultural heritage as well as make a profit.
Tosan Ideh said ITSK Gold, the company he co-founded with his friend Tuoyo Dudu, was motivated by Nigerian cultural symbols and artefacts to create jewellery like rings and bracelets as well as clothes.
At his shop in Lagos, each piece of gold, silver and brass-coated jewellery represents Nigerian tradition and culture.
“So people might really be able to speak their languages but symbols always resonate and its something we felt people can always resonate with like anywhere around the world,” Ideh, who has lived in Canada, told Reuters.
“I feel that we want to create products that people can have for a long time, they can pass from one generation to generation and know that this is true African heritage which is timeless.”
Among the jewellery are gold rings depicting the Queen Idia Mask, part of thousands of Benin Bronzes looted by British troops from the Benin palace in 1897. Idia was a 16th-century queen mother from the Kingdom of Benin.
Also on display is a ring topped with a Jekri sword, a symbol of the Niger Delta’s Itsekiri people which is associated with courage and royalty and believed to have magical powers.
“It is not just wearing pieces, it is wearing pieces that mean something,” said customer Abdulmalik Obaseki after buying a lapel that represented his dual Hausa and Benin tribal roots.