By Lauren S. Williams and Alissa Scheller/The Associated PressRead full story Africa’s growing African art industry has long been seen as a niche industry, with only a handful of major American brands operating in the continent.
But that’s changing.
Africa Art, a new e-commerce site, is hoping to make African art accessible to a wider audience by offering a catalog of crafts, books, and accessories to help Africans and their visitors understand their African heritage.
The site’s website lists some of its offerings: an African-themed clothing store, a jewelry store that specializes in African jewelry, and a collection of tools and crafts for African-American artists.
The African Crafts and Art Store is one of a handful, or maybe two, African-owned e-shops that cater to African-Americans.
Its founder and CEO, Jonathan A. K. Johnson, says African-born African-America shoppers are looking for a way to find African-inspired products without having to worry about a lack of knowledge.
“The reason why people are not shopping here, in many cases, is because they’re not aware of it, they don’t know where to start,” he said.
He also says African American customers tend to be more accepting of products made with traditional African ingredients, and more likely to purchase the products with an African theme.
“It’s just a place where you can get the African experience, and we want to take that experience to a whole new level,” he added.
But how do African art stores fit into the overall retail landscape?
There are some limitations, however.
The site’s African-based designers have to adhere to strict guidelines for African products and the items are limited to a few products, and they can only ship to a certain number of retailers.
African artists who are not certified African-related professionals also can’t sell directly to African customers.
“A lot of African artists are not allowed to have any kind of storefront in this country,” Johnson said.
“We want to make sure that African artists can’t just sell in this store.
It’s really about creating a marketplace for African artists.”
African-American buyers can only purchase from a select number of African-licensed stores in the U.S. and the U: Artisanal, Traditional, Artisan, and Fine Craft shops.
The largest African-designed retail store in the country, the African Arts and Craft Store in New York, sells products for African consumers.
The business is one part of a growing trend in which African-made goods and art are being marketed to African Americans, as the country becomes increasingly diverse.
African-Americans are increasingly purchasing African-branded goods and services, with Black-owned businesses, such as The Artisan African and African-Owned Stores, becoming more popular as the nation’s demographics continue to shift.
“I’m just hoping that people are buying things that they might have been able to buy otherwise,” Johnson added.