Tell us a bit about you.
I am originally from Senegal where I grew up until I moved to France to pursue higher education in Paris. I finished my education and worked in management of fashion and luxury goods. I moved to Canada 7 years ago, in 2009. I spent 3 months in Montreal before moving to Toronto.
Since I have been in Canada, I have been working in the non-for-profit sector as well as building my own luxury brand: Bouswari. Bouswari offers a range of handbags and accessories made in Senegal. I have partnered with two artisans to create exquisite products that combine African heritage and contemporary designs.
What is your biggest achievement?
To date, my biggest achievement was to be able to translate my ideas and creativity into a brand. I have been working on the Bouswari project for several years, and translating my inspirations into real products and designs has been challenging. It is still a challenge but it is exciting and rewarding at the same time.
What is the meaning of "Bouswari"?
“Bouswari” is a combination of two words: Bousso, my middle name and Bassari which represents the Bassari people who mainly live in West Africa.
How did the inspiration beyond Bouswari come about?
I take my inspiration from the whole African continent. The purpose of Bouswari is to share with Canada and the world, through my design work, the Africa I know. I wanted to tap into my African roots and create contemporary products that fit the modern world. The African touch in Bouswari’s products is subtle. For example, I have revisited some traditional handbags, such as the Nafa and the Touareg bourse, all with the goal of taking customers on a wonderful African experience.
With my desire of giving back to Africa, I decided to base the production of Bouswari’s handbags in Senegal, my home country. Senegalese artisans are very skilled as well as creative when it comes to leather craft. Although they face challenges, as they lack certain structures and resources, they are still doing a wonderful job. I have invested in machinery and I source nearly everything locally, from the leather to the dust bags. The only exception is the hardware, such as zippers and snaps, which are sourced in France. Also, I am working closely with artisans to provide the best quality of products.
In particular, each design is discussed with the artisans and we revamp it accordingly, based on the feasibility. Artisans are very involved in the creation process providing feedback, ideas and solutions.
What does Manyatta mean to you?
Manyatta means community, opportunity, and support from the African Canadian community in Canada. It is a place where we can connect and support each other. An African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” I think Manyatta, by uniting us, is allowing us to go farther. I wish Manyatta much success and I hope it will continue to honour its mission.