Nyemay Aya Creates Functional Art With An Afrocentric Twist

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AyaYou might want to save the name Nyemay Collectables for your next holiday gift shopping trip–especially Kwanzaa.

Nyemay Aya started the company in 1998 to offer unique bath towels featuring various symbols, particularly the African symbols of Gye Nyame (Adinkra) and Ankh (Khemtic). When she started out, she new nothing about sewing but her belief in her entrepreneurial dream was so strong there was no stopping her. ?Whatever extra money I had after paying my bills I would use to buy towels,? she says. And when a supervisor at her day job offered her an old sewing machine, Aya was on her way. She taught herself how to sew and she hasn?t looked back–and she?s been sewing the intriguing symbols on her towels ever since. And she sees it as a way to spread awareness about African symbols and culture.

?Symbols are defined as a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract–that being said, when I started back in the? 90’s there were not many of our people of African Descent that were aware of our African History, our Royal Lineage, the wonderful stories from our past,? explains Aya. “I thought subliminally the towels would be a great way to reach into minds and strike up interest in the meaning of the symbols thus leading people back to our culture that we were not taught.?

As founder and head designer for Nyemay?s Collectables, Aya says she is creating functional fine art all in a hope to ?reconnect Africans throughout the diaspora with their collective culture.? The embroidery on the towels is the paintbrush. Included in the product line are: bath towels, baby bibs, and hooded sweatshirts–all which Aya sees as canvases for her creative expression.

Aya started selling her creations at Brooklyn Street festival scenes then developed into a custom-order enterprise with products placed in New York’s boutiques. And now she sells the products online as well.

Aya, who moved to Atlanta, went on to expand the product line adding aprons, pillowcases, placemats, crochet scarves and baby blankets. ?My designs are made in a applique form with fabric; the other embroidered towels I have seen are used with thread only.? ?

Aya says she wants people to collect her offerings. ?Our people will collect so many things like Jordan sneakers and? other items that have absolutely no value; however, the towels have a meaning that connects us to our history as? African people,? she explains.

Aya is looking ahead to attracting more wholesale accounts and she says she wants to be ?able to sustain a living income of selling my towels.?

Obviously, Aya is in it for the long haul.