For our latest capsule collection, we journey to the idyllic archipelago of Lamu, located in the Indian Ocean off of Kenya's northern coast. Lamu, one of the largest islands, is home to the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The Old Town of Lamu Island has long held historical significance in East Africa. Founded in the 14th century, Lamu Old Town remains one of the best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. 

An ancient Swahili settlement, as well as an important port town, the islands were inhabited by Africans, Europeans, Persians, and more — with each culture contributing to the blended fusion of cultures and identities still present on the islands today.

An example of the exemplary coral stone architecture with Omani, Arab, and Indian influence. Photo by Sandy Bornman.  

Lamu is famous for its narrow, winding streets, as well as its beautiful, unique architecture style informed by centuries of cultural exchange and fusion. The ancient houses are crafted from coral stone and mangrove timber, with ancient wooden doors carved by master craftsmen and influenced by Omani and Indian design. The island is home to wandering donkeys, and resting dhow boats —the only form of transport around the islands. 

With its beautiful sandy beaches, and slow, peaceful lifestyle, Lamu became a coveted destination for travellers in the 1960s and 70s on the famous 'Hippie Trail,' where Lamu was idolised as the 'Kathmandu of Africa.'  

 

Historic architecture with Lamu's famous mangrove timber doors, crafted by master artisans. Photo by Discover Lamu.

History

Many Swahili settlements dotted the coastline of East Africa but Lamu Old Town remains one of the original settlements still standing and inhabited today.   

Throughout Lamu's history, the island was colonised and controlled by different regions and empires. As a centre for trade, Lamu exported ivory, spices, timber, amber, cowry, and was also instrumental as a transit hub for the slave trade in East Africa. 

Lamu came under Portuguese control in the 16th century, and then a century later, the Omani protectorate gained control of Lamu. Under Omani leadership, Lamu developed into a cultural hub for literature, artistry, and craftsmanship. Omani influence can be found in the intricately carved wooden doors that have become synonymous with the island. Later, Lamu was controlled by the Germans, and then the British, until Kenya finally became an independent nation in 1963. 

 

Riyardha Mosque - founded in the late 19th century, the Mosque has served as an important Islamic institution for education and scholarship in the Swahili world. The madrasa of the mosque educates students from the Lamu archipelago. Photo by Pony.

 

Lamu has long been renowned as an important centre for Islamic religion and Swahili culture throughout the region. Prominent Islamic scholars have visited the region, as many Islamic festivals are celebrated throughout the islands. Islam remains integral to the identity of the inhabitants of Lamu - a society that has maintained their traditional values and religion up until the present day. 

 

The Collection 

This 5-piece capsule collection was crafted in partnership with our artisan partners in Kenya. Each piece was lovingly handcrafted by Artisans Elijah, Andrew, and Ojiko.

This collection features recycled brass, with hammered, textured accents and white reclaimed horn. Lamu Journeys features four new earring silhouettes as well as the elegantly-scalloped ring, the Shela Ring

Inspired by the mystic, idyllic islands of Lamu, each jewellery piece is a summer staple, designed to be treasured for years to come. 

Shop Lamu Journeys today.  

 

 

 

 Sources

https://journeysbydesign.com/destinations/kenya/lamu-archipelago

https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20191024-an-ancient-island-at-the-centre-of-the-world

https://www.sacredfootsteps.org/2018/03/15/lamu-swahili-maulid-town-international-history/

https://www.atlasofhumanity.com/lamu

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