WORDS Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES Saskia Wegner Photography
Founded by designer Harmonie Mbunga, VALOYI is a luxury accessories brand that pays homage to traditional African craftsmanship.
The brand’s current collection of locally hand-made handbags showcases a curated range of traditional textiles that celebrate West Africa, as well as South Africa, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I want to do my part in the redefining of the African narrative, my part in raising our heritage crafts and culture to a place of esteem, and (further) cementing its relevancy on this world,” says Harmonie. “Why? Because its history matters. Our history matters.”
For Harmonie, celebrating African history and culture is paramount. “Within every culture and every tribe found in all the countries of this vast continent there is beauty, there is art and there is craftsmanship. But most of these creations are becoming lost and dying art forms. Our mission at VALOYI is to do our part in keeping the century’s old heritage skills of the African Artisan alive, thereby creating a new path for skills to still be passed on for generations to come, and for us to enjoy them as new modern heirlooms through refined contemporary design.”
From backpacks to handy pouches for when you’re on-the-go, VALOYI’s collection features a range of versatile bags, from the Kedi Bag, which showcases hand-made Bògòlanfini cloth from Mali and the Moja Drawstring Backpack, made with African wax prints, to the Khaya Waistbags. The Khaya Waistbags are a limited-edition capsule range featuring two graphic shape designs inspired by Kuba cloth, created in collaboration with artist Brian Tompkins, and a third design created by Harmonie featuring a print inspired by traditional Xhosa ceremonial attire.
Harmonie is currently working on a new collection that will celebrate and showcase the traditions of more African countries. This new range will also see her launching and introducing her first style of handcrafted sustainable unisex shoes, something she’s very excited about and has been working on for a while.