Changing Regional Fashion and Art with Ankara: Meet Ndey Fatou Njie of Tiga
The infamous wax print or “ankara” as its most commonly called, is almost synonymous with West Africa. The wax print was originally manufactured by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile industry, but gained popularity and interest in Western Africa. Today the material is used all over Africa and the world, especially in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Senegal, and Kenya.
Used for years as a staple in African fashion, one Gambian is changing the way in which wax print is used. The passionate and driven Ndey Fatou Njie is the founder of Tiga, a Gambian brand that finds creative and fashionable ways to use wax print. From handbags and bowties, to swimwear and interior decor, Tiga is finding fun new ways to incorporate culture in everyday items.
Ndey Fatou Njie is a graduate of Marina International School and Derby College (UK). She holds a LLB Bachelors of Law Degree from the University of The Gambia and is the creative director and founder of Tiga. As a frequent swimmer, she realized that there was a gap in the market for locally handmade swimwear that fit comfortably using beautiful African fabric. Njie started making swimwear samples to test the market. They were a hit. Recognizing the interest and potential in her products, Njie officially launched Tiga in 2016.
Tiga focuses on celebrating african-centered culture and art. “Central to Tiga’s philosophy is to celebrate the beautiful vibrancy of African wax fabric, the creativity of regional fashion and the importance of locally produced art” shares the CEO.
Njie also leveraged the demand for her swimwear to expand Tiga products to leisurewear, accessories and household items. Tiga’s latest products in 2018 included upcycling furniture, like recycling car tires and turning them into furniture. The brand’s primary market in The Gambia is in the tourism industry. Most tourists come to The Gambia to enjoy the beautiful beaches and the almost year round warm weather. Thus, the demand for an indigenous product such as Tiga’s has great potential to increase.
Today, Tiga products could be purchased from different locations all over The Gambia.
In addition to launching Tiga, in 2020 Njie was awarded ‘One of The Most Impactful Young Entrepreneurs’ in The Gambia by the Board of Directors of the American Chamber of Commerce and Global Entrepreneurship. She was also nominated for New African Woman on the Rise (Next Generation) by UK’s New African Woman Magazine in 2017. Her work has been featured on platforms such as the United Nations, Female One Zero, International Trade Centre. Njie also supports charities such as One Heart Gambia, Young Mums of the Gambia, and Jaeghan Cole Memorial Foundation. She is a member of Women’s International Networking Group, TAF Club Ten, and Global Shaper Hub Banjul.
Tiga’s goals include sustainable socio-economic contributions in Gambian communities, one of which is recruiting and training young girls interested in learning to work with African fabrics and those interested in learning art and design. The brand also plans on having outreach programs to assist girls to have confidence in themselves and their own body. With these initiatives, Njie believes that the Tiga brand can be a great way to showcase the talents of young African entrepreneurs and be a great source of economic prosperity for The Gambia.
“To achieve positive results you must know how to assess and handle resistance. Public partners such as the Government of the Gambia, the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency and ITC’s YEP want to curb irregular migration, reduce youth unemployment and create youth entrepreneurs while developing the Gambian economy” states Njie.
“This approach fits very well with Tiga’s public-private partnership model, in which all interested parties are brought together and transparently aligned to ensure all partners’ objectives are accomplished. That is, all stakeholders bring value, be it cash or in-kind, with all looking for a suitable return that will help build a better and more prosperous Gambia.”