Preservation is a blog that highlights young African entrepreneurs based throughout the Diaspora who utilize their art/craft to keep and shape different versions of African culture in contemporary societies.
My name is omo pastor, and I am a storyteller of the African Diaspora. The purpose of this blog is to connect the world with artists who dedicate their craft to the stories of African people while living both on the Continent and outside the Continent in Western society.
Recently, I sat down to build and chat with a jewelry designer named Raymond Egbo, who creates jewelry influenced by multiple Nigerian tribes thus giving his pieces more dynamic layers of different cultures and feels.
Check out the interview below:
Why is your work important in today’s world?
I believe my work has importance in today’s world because our culture (Afro Culture) lacks a accurate representation through the medium of jewelry (men’s and women’s). A physical manifestation of culture, history and self-reflection formed from silvers, golds, semi-precious/precious stones. Over the last 5 years Afro Culture is now finally seeing its praise that it deserves. Facets of food, music, art, cinematography are to name a few that are developing. I take jewelry, fine jewelry, as the facet that needs its stamp in the world with proper representation.
What makes your brand unique?
I believe what makes my jewelry stand out is the influence of Afro culture in each piece I create and design. From pieces influenced by my country’s garment patterns to pieces influenced by my personal lineage history. I want to capture these aspects and bring them to life. I want people to understand the history and inspiration behind the design. What it means to me, what it means to the brand and what it means to them when it connects with them.
Why is your work centered around the Nigerian culture – and on a broader scale – the African Diaspora?
I am of Nigerian decent. My mother is a Benin woman, my father (by blood) is an Igbo man and my Dad (by marriage) is a Yoruba man. I haven’t had much connection with my Igbo side growing up but creating this brand has allowed me to learn more about my culture. I have influences from some of the biggest tribes in Nigeria. So, of course, my work will be centered around Nigerian culture. I did not want to make my brand a “Nigerian Brand” rather I want to represent as much of Africa as I can through my work. I have designs that take influence from Ghana, Mali, Morocco and other countries that I will create as my brand grows. My work is to represent ‘One Africa’. To connect ‘One Africa’ to the world. It sounds like a daunting task. But I love it. I want to make history. Make something bigger than just this brand being a brand.
What does ‘One Africa’ mean and look like to you?
One Africa. One Africa means Unity, Appreciation, Consideration and Acceptance. One Africa to me means all those things because one Africa is US. One people. And to connect with a person you must unify with one another, consider one another. From their culture, ways of thinking, appearance, experiences. Appreciate what makes that person special. Accepting what makes that person’s culture special. Accepting the fact that we are all human. We are all one person. We are all One Africa.
One Africa looks like what you see in the mirror physically and what you see in the reflection of your soul. It looks like all forms of melanin, from the deepest & richest skin tone, to the fairest of skin. From how we are formed by our cultural roots to how we assimilate to the homes away from home. One Africa looks the appreciation and love for all African Cultures.
What do you believe is the essence of creating quality?
Creating quality work should be the essence of any curator, creative, business owner etc. As an African, we pride ourselves in quality. Quality in our food, music, clothes, businesses, even our hustle. We are hard workers. We grind hard. In whatever facet we wish to put our energy in, we turn on our hustler mentality and put in the work.
Quality triumphs quantity for me. I always want to insure I create a piece that has the highest quality possible. Using ethically sourced materials. Sterling silvers, high karat gold. Semi-precious stones. High quality materials used to construct my pieces. I don’t want it to be about how many pieces I can put out at a time. I rather it be about how much I can put into each piece each time.
How important is taking your time to achieve your goal to you verses putting out content for purchases?
I will not release product if I am not backing it with my heart. I’ve spent 7 years starting, creating, refining, scrapping, starting again, re-creating, refining again my vision, direction and pieces. It is very important that the meaning, materials, craftsmanship and quality of peach piece I design/create is fully recognized. I’m fine with not making many or any sales early on in my design career. I am still learning and developing my craft. I want people connect and grow with the brand and what I represent through my work. That takes time. Rushing to the money or sales takes away from that philosophy.
How long have you been creating?
I’ve been creating since I was 13. I remember being in 7th and 8th grade sketching pages and pages of comics with actual story lines. In high school, I wrote poetry. In my early years in college, I designed clothes and accessories. I took my definitive path into jewelry, I’d say, about 7 years ago. I’m 27. So, about half my life I’ve been creating.
Can you explain the details in a few of your favorite pieces?
I have two pieces that are my favorite.
The first one is the Ibibio Skull Ring. Ibibio means Leopard in Igbo. My name Egbo comes from Ekpe which are the village people of the 19th century. They are the ones who live in the forest as do the leopard. The piece is a literal reflection of my history. And it was the first piece I designed. It’s created in sliver and a 18k gold and silver combo.
The second is one I haven’t yet released that I made 3 years ago. (I wore it in the shoot you did for me). It is a piece I crafted myself. A necklace made from glass, 18k gold beads and fringe leather tassel as the pendant. It’s inspired by an Irukere, a symbol of authority often carried by Ifa/Orisa Priests/Priestesses, Chiefs and Kings from Yorubaland. It’s my favorite is because I went to Tokyo 3 years ago for vacation and I stopped by this hole in the wall leather goods shop in Akihabara and they had amazing quality leather scraps. I picked up a handful and made the piece when I got home. Till this day, I have yet to find similar quality in NY. I need to go back to Tokyo. Haha. But I love that piece.
What impact do you foresee your art having within the African Diaspora?
I want to make history. I want to be the David Yurman, John Hardy, Hoorsenbughs, Le Gramme of African Luxury Jewelry. I want the Diaspora to know that there is a representation of our culture through luxuries outside of clothing, or experiences in our respected countries. I want to bridge the connection between us and those who want to know more about us, our history and cultural richness.
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