Fulaba Jewelry: A Tale of African Nobility, Wealth and Culture

“I want the world to revere the richness, beauty, and depth of African diversity, and this, in part, is what birthed Fulaba, the home of exclusive jewellery from African high culture.”

Haby Barry, founder of Fulaba in her Wolof jewellrey collection.
Haby Barry, founder of Fulaba in her Wolof jewellery collection. Image courtesy of Haby Barry

I was lazily scrolling through Instagram search when its algorithm brought up images of some of the most unique earrings I have ever seen. As an earring lover and collector (if I say so myself), I was immediately drawn to that single post, and once I had read the caption, the entire handle.

Fulaba gold-dipped Fulani earrings.
Fulaba gold-dipped Fulani earrings- large version. Image courtesy Fulaba

“ I started Fulaba specifically to bring authentic Fulani jewellery, handcrafted with precious metals, to a global market; and to tell the story and preserve this tradition,” its founder, Haby Barry, told me after I had reached out to her to find out more about her individual pieces. “I was actually inspired to start my jewellery line because I had an old pair of brass Fulani earrings that I got from Harlem, which I used to always get compliments on in San Francisco, California and I finally thought to myself that I could get a better pair of these earrings made and since I am Fulani why not tell the story and bring people authentic Fulani jewellery? I then began to research to see if anyone truly owned this niche market and found that no one did, therefore I decided to.”

Fulaba gold-dipped Wolof earrings, square version.
Fulaba gold-dipped Wolof earrings, square version. Image courtesy of Haby Barry

But owning a jewellery line that tells stories of different ethnic groups in the African continent wasn’t always what she had dreamt of. In her words, “I had no idea that I would get into jewellery, it just kind of found me, [even though] I always knew that I would be involved in some type of creative business endeavour. I have designed clothing in the past, -my prom dress and wedding dresses for example – but I have always had creative passion and ability. I used to work in the music industry and I play the piano so it is natural for me to create.”

The Fulaba Fulani collection in sterling silver
The Fulani collection in sterling silver. Image courtesy of Fulaba

Fulaba isn’t just about exclusive jewellry. Each handcrafted piece is interwoven with ancient African stories which tell tales of powerful monarchies that had once dominated the continent, and of nobility and great wealth of different ethnic groups. “Most of our pieces are inherently part of a story and have a historical significance,” she explains. “For instance, our style of Fulani earrings has been around for centuries and Fulani women wore this jewellery in solid gold as a sign of wealth and nobility. And our new Wolof collection is a style that the mother of the last king of Senegal, Ngonée Latir, wore.”

Haby Barry in her new Wolof collection.
Haby Barry in her new Wolof collection. Image courtesy of Haby Barry

But sometimes, the stories behind her collections are not just about wealth. “The post earrings in our signature collection reflect the symbol that’s part of our logo, which is inspired by the twist of the Fulani earrings. The design represents the interconnectedness of all living things, and the events happening around the world this year make this more apparent than ever.”

Fulaba 18k gold signature post earrings
Fulaba 18k gold signature post earrings. Image courtesy of Fulaba

I wondered if her African roots might have perhaps played a role in her decision to represent the continent through her pieces. The simple answer is “yes.” Her collections not only reflect the culture but are also made on the continent. “My parents are from Guinea and with the help of my aunt who lives in Conakry, Guinea, we were able to find skilful artisans who know how to properly make the Fulani earrings as they have been made centuries ago. Guinea has the highest percentage (well over 40%) of Fulani people although there are actually more Fulani people in Nigeria since the country is so large with a much smaller percentage.”

Fulaba's gold-dipped Fulani-inspired cuff bracelets.
Fulaba’s gold-dipped Fulani-inspired cuff bracelets. Image courtesy Haby Barry

“Our Wolof jewellery collection is made in Senegal. The highest percentage of Wolof people is in Senegal with smaller populations of Wolof residing in Gambia and Mauritania. We make our jewellery where there are talented artisans and where we can responsibly source raw materials. Our focus is on West Africa so we may produce in other countries in the region in the future if it makes sense to do so.”

So, should we be expecting a new collection soon? Would it reflect a different African ethnic group, I ask. “Yes and yes, later this year. I am also going to be launching hair jewellery, which will be a part of our signature collection and although it is not connected to any specific African ethnic group it will for sure embody the spirit of African High Culture.”

Fulaba gold-dipped Fulani earrings
Fulaba gold-dipped Fulani earrings. Image courtesy Haby Barry

You can view the full collection on Instagram @fulaba and subscribe for updates at www.fulaba.com/subscribe-to-fulaba. Fulaba ships globally, and can be purchased at fulaba.afrikrea.com or www.fulaba.com for customers in the US and Canada (free shipping applies)

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