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The Proverbs woman, says Anyaa, is an industrious woman who cares about the bounty of God’s earth and seeks to maintain quality and workmanship with every loop on the loom, which she uses even today.
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Ms. Anyaa teaches the art
The Industrious Woman.
Proverbs 31:24: “She makes fine linen garments and leads others to buy them; she delivers to the merchants girdles [or sashes that free one up for service].”
This is the parable by which Elizabeth Anyaa, a native of Sierra Leone and now our gift, lives her life. For Anyaa, being the Proverbs woman means that she not only makes fine textiles from wool and other products, but also she teaches others to make them, wear them, and sell them. The Proverbs woman, says Anyaa, is an industrious woman who cares about the bounty of God’s earth and seeks to maintain
quality and workmanship with every loop on the loom, which she uses even today.
From her 1409 South Lamar street location near downtown Dallas, Anyaa offers an open door to anyone interested in the art of looming products into textiles. She offers up only organic materials – food as well as textiles. When I visited her shop, appropriately named simply “Anyaa,” we ate green grapes and fresh strawberries on an exotic platter that was placed on a woolen cloth made by – of course – Anyaa. She spoke of her dream in terms of a calling. The calling came in the mid-90s before the civil war in Sierra Leone when Anyaa had witnessed disabled children in rundown orphanages, covered with flies and feces, with no arms or no legs. They’d been cut off by militants using children as combatants and by task-masters recruiting them as laborers in the diamond mines of Koidu. The images impacted Anyaa so terribly that she vowed to leave her native country in pursuit of an answer to the suffering. Since her parents were never in her life, Anyaa was raised by several mentors whom she refers to as stepmothers. They taught her how to use an old hand-cranked sewing machine to make rich, exotic fabrics to sell and wear, an art all but gone in the States but an almost necessary survival tool in third world countries such as Sierra Leone.
With not much in the way of belongings or money, Anyaa managed to find a way out of Sierra Leone to study textile designs in Finland where she met a woman from Lewisville, Texas on a European visit. The Texan must have seen the raw, natural inspiration coming from Anyaa’s eyes. “She made me a deal,” Anyaa says. “…an invitation to live in the States with her until I could get myself on my feet and then paid my first six months of college tuition…I pay her back by giving back (smile).”
Anyaa ultimately paid her own way through college, struggling for years with many menial jobs until finally meeting local Dallasite and philanthropist, Leslie Carpenter, founder of the then Dallas fashion industry novelty “The Dallas Fashion Incubator.” Again, someone with the resources to take Anyaa to the next level seemed to be there in waiting at the right time and in the right place. The Incubator was an organization which lobbied for grant money to help up-and-coming designers and they had seen in Anyaa not only the kind of raw talent needed to succeed in the brazen world of fashion design but also someone who would give back. The latter couldn’t be more true. The fashion maverick, nicknamed “Catalog” by friends and associates, isn’t just designing haute-couture clothing, but also plans to sell her pieces for the home on commission and design home showcases for corporate interior design. In addition, Anyaa gives back by mentoring youth. She teaches a design class at St. Phillips Academy and at the Neighborhood Touring Program at the Majestic Theater for 3rd and 4th graders. The program has been very effective in teaching not only the artistic part of design but also science. Anyaa says “You have to know the density of the fabrics and mix the proper chemicals to make the proper dyes; one must know how many threads are needed to create the right density.” The young students are compelled to come back for more instruction as the program gains traction.
Meanwhile, the old-fashioned loom stays right up front by the window, ever at the ready for Anyaa’s designs. Anyaa not only weaves the textiles and dyes the fabrics, but also she uses any raw material she can find including wire, copper, straw and leather – even soap.
With a twinkle in her eye and a great big hug, Anyaa made a solemn promise out loud as I was leaving: “My calling is to get enough attention and earn enough money to return to Sierra Leon, where to be a disabled child is to have a death sentence, and to open up my own school for them like Oprah.”
Anyaa can be reached through: www.ElizabethAnyaa.com
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