Khadija Jawara is a young Gambian designer who has a clear idea about her talent and her wishes. 17 years old and living in England, since she was a child she revealed a genuine interest in fashion.
What’s On-Gambia: Tell us briefly about yourself and how you discovered your passion for designing?
Khadija:My name is Khadija Jawara, I am 17 years old. I was born and raised in The Gambia but migrated to the United Kingdom four years ago.
This journey made me discover myself, in other words, it helped me to identify myself with my roots very deeply.
It has entrenched my connection with Africa and blossomed my passion for fashion. Thus, during my infant years, whilst most of my friends and other kids spent time watching cartoons, I was always focused on fashion programs due to my euphoria for fashion.
This passion of mine, however, was not really embraced by my parents because as we all know, African parents are more likely to encourage their daughters to strive for traditional occupations such as lawyers, bankers, doctors etc.
As a result, my parents didn't encourage and support my innate passion for fashion. They advised me to strive for something that is "widely respected" and will make me "successful".
From that disposition, I perfectly understood them since they aren't too knowledgeable about how important and profitable fashion has become in the contemporary era.
I, in turn, opted to focus on my education and took fashion as a hobby.
After closing the chapter on becoming a professional model due primarily to the discouraging position towards the craft by my parents, I was consequently rewarded by Allah with the impeccable skill to sew.
This might sound very plain, but when I discovered this ability, instead of the dream to become a model and showcase other people's designs, I rather aspired to attain the height of designing my own garments for other models to parade in.
I, however, wanted my craft to convey a very powerful meaning/message. Largely due to the fact that my journey in England made me aware that Africans abroad did not really appreciate their identity and culture as Africans.
Many are reluctant to display traditional African clothes and this passive deficiency in awareness hurt me deeply but adversely encouraged me to create an image of Africa to promote African culture interlinked with modern fashion.
I am currently doing my A levels in Shireland Sixth form (college) in Birmingham.
Who is your biggest supporter?
My biggest supporter has been a Ghanaian girl known as Valeria Yamoah. I met her in the sixth form and she has always encouraged me to fulfil my dreams at an early age. Even though I have a lot of supporters she has always been there for me. Bintou Sawaneh is also one of my supporters.
Tell us about your online store, Jongoma Closet?
Jongoma Closet is an online store that curates exclusive and unique contemporary African women clothing.
The aim of the store is to inspire Africans around the world to embrace and dignity African fashion through the use of contemporary fashion and African inspired theme.
How is your work received in England?
In England many people are not aware of the symbolism and purpose of my crafts, therefore, some like it for how "different" it is and some just think its "too Afrocentric". But most people like it even though they don't seem to understand it very much.
What would you like to achieve before the end of this year?
I am striving to incorporate designs for men in Jongoma Closet by the end of the year and I hope I will have an impact on many diasporans and contribute to change their perceptions about African culture and traditions.
What advice would you give to young designers in The Gambia?
I would encourage young designers in the Gambia to confidently showcase African culture with pride and gratitude. Thus, an ultimate purpose to initiate a social change and not solely for the money or fame (though both are equally important).
Positively affecting the views of foreigners towards Africans through craft is a social responsibility young designers should voluntarily subject themselves to.
Through that, I believe, many economic issues such as lack of employment in the Gambia will be curbed through the latent effect of job opportunities created through the craft. A plethora of people will be employed in the fashion industry and thus, prospectively contribute to the Gambian economy.