Founder of Sareptha Rose, Robin S is an American-born, British-raised Liberian. As a millennial African member of the diaspora, she hopes to be a part of the movement to bridge the gap between African craftspeople and international consumer markets. After working in Liberia with a London-based mining company and forming a West African conservation NGO, she experienced a new dimension to her relationship with the continent. She knew she had to get involved in something with a direct impact on the backbone of development: the private sector.
Over the years with each visit “back home”, she noticed the abundance of high-quality handmade goods available, with a sporadic flow of a small number of tourists as customers. With in-country infrastructure constraints in mind, and without the resources to implement a large scale manufacturing operation, she decided to make it her mission to develop domestic industries for handcrafted African-made goods.
She decided to begin this journey with these ornate leather handbags and accessories after years of people complimenting and inquiring on how they could acquire one. These particular bags are made by a collective of traditional leatherworkers who originally hail from Guinea but make and sell their items in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.
Guinea has a lengthy cattle herding history, and most of the renowned butchers in Liberia are also of Guinean-Liberian tribal origins. As imported western-style bags and accessories usually prove more popular among local residents, the bulk of their work comes from repairing and altering damaged leather goods, primarily footwear. The leather is sourced from Guinea and Mali, and the lining and finishings are sourced in local market. Most of the bags are designed by the leatherworkers themselves, with Robin providing partial creative direction on certain aspects, and exercises complete creative direction on other designs.
She is also an Alumna of Leeds University School of Law, United Kingdom, and Duke University School of Law, USA. She currently lives in New York, USA.
An entire generation lost the fair opportunity to live up to their potential. In Liberia, the most common occupation that is open to everyone just trying to make it is to be an entrepreneur. From selling chewing gum, coconut pieces or bread to passengers in traffic, to owning restaurants and gas stations, people in Liberia are finding careers that don’t depend on the formal qualifications most were denied the chance to attain.
Our bag makers travel around the continent searching for the leathers and materials for their designs. They have traveled from near and far to find opportunity in capital cities. Most of the leather is said to come from Mali and Guinea, which are both rich in traditional cattle-herding communities.
These ornate handcrafted bags are just the beginning of our plans to help develop the African craft industry by bringing Liberia’s craftsmanship to the global stage. By way of New York, USA, we invite you to join us on this journey.
September 1, 2016