When most of us think of Africa culture or design, we mostly think of tribal designs. Truth is, Africa is a lot more than that. Unseen Africa, a newly launched retail platform intends to change that perception by highlighting the continent’s distinctive culture.

The retail site was founded by Adama Diallo, a native of Guinea, a single mum with a 4-year-old son, Googler, and career coach. Unseen Africa carries a wide variety of African brands crafted by artisans, craftsman, and designers. The authentic products are made using traditional techniques and native materials.

unseen africa print
A print from fine arts photographer David Ballam

That was the intent of Diallo in launching the curated retail platform. Not only does it serve to highlight these modern independent brands from the continent, but it also serves to bring a touch of Africa to the world. And it starts here in Singapore.

“I want to tell the story of how Africa has risen on the global stage, while holding onto culture, tradition, and craftsmanship,” explains Diallo. “Each time a piece of design is produced, there is more than a person behind it, but rather, a community that is uplifted and a story that the world deserves to hear.”

Promoting African Brands And Culture

Diallo is a native of Guinea. Having lived in Guinea and travelled extensively across Africa, she uncovered local African brands crafted by artisans. Now living and working in Singapore, the pieces she sourced are so loved by her friends that she decided to start this curated retail platform.

Before Covid-19 suspended air travel, she spent much of her free time discovering, exploring, and sourcing with partners who produce some of the continents’ most creative and socially responsible products. She personally curates every partner and every piece to bring the best of Africa to consumers.

The growing appreciation has seen African or Safari themed home decors gaining popularity in homes. While global brands have taken inspiration from African aesthetics, the crafting and manufacturing usually does not happen within Africa or involve the African people.

What Unseen Africa does is to bring African brands together to connect them with shoppers who want a piece of Africa in their homes. This gives small African businesses access to new shoppers, giving them the opportunity to buy pieces from African brands that are truly made by Africans. This also means that the money shoppers invest on African products goes to the people in Africa.

Conscious Consumption

According to Diallo, Unseen Africa is transparent about where it sources its products and who their partners are. Partners that meet the ethical sourcing requirements of the retail platform will benefit from accessing these new markets.

“We spend time getting to know our partners,” she adds. “When you shop for an item from Unseen Africa, you do not just own a piece of African elegance, you are also making a conscious investment in finding a unique premium piece for your home.”

unseen africa barrydale hand weavers
Barrydale Hand Weavers bring a human touch to the textiles they weave

Some of the listed brands on the platform include Barrydale Hand Weavers, an exclusive textile partner from South Africa.  Priding themselves on hand-woven textiles, they not only preserve traditional processes but also help empower, employ, and develop skills of their weavers.  Barrydale Hand Weavers also shares the weavers behind each product offering the consumer greater insight to the lives of these artisans.

Mungo, a partner from South Africa makes homeware textiles. The company became the nation’s first Global Organic Textile Standard certified weaving mill and is committed to sourcing quality natural fibres. They weave textiles with their 16 traditional looms that have been restored, gifted, or purchased from Mills that have either closed down or upgraded their production, thus saving them from a landfill.

unseen africa mungo
A piece of homeware textile takes shape at Mungo

Tensira is another partner who blends centuries-old Guinean know-how of weaving with indigo dying and Nordic design. All their fabrics are 100% reused cotton made with traditional looms for zero- waste. They also use a natural indigo dyeing process in collaboration with several dozen groups of artisans in Guinea.

Unseen Africa retails African-made homewares by African brands. Free shipping is included for all orders above S$250 with a 30-day return and exchange policy.

(Images: Unseen Africa)

written by.
Richard Augustin
Former chef turned writer; Richard has tip-toed around the publishing industry for two decades. When not busy chasing deadlines, you can still find him experimenting with recipes in the kitchen.

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