I am excited to introduce our second YOUnifier(s) of the month, Afro-Irish entrepreneurs Meneliswa (Liswa) McDonald and China Soribe, whose startup Umoja Linn supports African designers in Ireland and beyond.
Once a month we will be highlighting someone exemplary who is using their voice to unify across social, cultural and political divisions. If there is someone you think we should be talking about, get in touch - email email@example.com.
Meneliswa (Liswa) McDonald and China Soribe are the Founders of Umoja linn, a marketplace for African inspired fashion designers and businesses. Liswa McDonald was born in South Africa and moved to Ireland at the age of 11, where she lived with her family in Co. Clare. Similarly, China was born in Nigeria and lived there until the age of 11, when she moved to Co. Offaly. Growing up these two women wanted to represent their individual cultures, Igbo and Zulu respectively, through fashion, but choices in Ireland were limited.
Knowing the demand for Afro-inspired products was there while studying at NUIG in Galway Liswa and China founded what was originally known as Umoja Productions in 2017. They have since rebranded as Umoja linn in January 2022. The word 'Umoja' translates to unity from Swahili and 'Linn' translates to 'by us' from Irish, enabling these two women to incorporate their places of birth and their Irish heritage.
The aim of Umoja linn is to promote awareness of African-inspired designers and businesses by means of a marketplace where potential customers can browse and purchase clothing, jewelry, and more from Afro-inspired brands in the one place. Breaking down barriers between people of African heritage who wish to express their cultures through fashion.
The initiative also makes use of pop-up events selling clothing items made by designers they are working with, enabling them to reach a larger audience. The first pop-up event took place at The Fumbally Stables in Dubin city on June 11th, 2022.
From one quick glance at their social media, it's very clear that there are a plethora of African-inspired businesses and that their clothing is for everyone.
China has described herself as a 'cultural hybrid,' a perfect fusion of her Nigerian roots and Irish heritage. Meneliswa is of Zulu heritage and gets great joy out of introducing Irish consumers to a world of fashion they may not have seen before.
Some Ireland-based brands include Inphintyx Accessories, which sells delicate jewellery in Dublin. This Creative Fiend, a shop full of wonderfully colourful masks, headbands, socks, and headwraps, and DoniDoni which brings you handmade mud cloth scarves from Mali, West Africa.