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NIGERIAN NATIVE SPREADING JOY AND EDUCATING OTHERS WITH S.L. SHOP SPECIALIZING IN AFRICAN GIFTS, CLOTHES

SHARE NIGERIAN NATIVE SPREADING JOY AND EDUCATING OTHERS WITH S.L. SHOP SPECIALIZING IN AFRICAN GIFTS, CLOTHES

Her name comes from the Ejagham tribe meaning joy. It aptly describes Igra Agbor, a bundle of joy, with dancing eyes, a ready smile and a demeanor that would charm a junkyard dog.

But the 41-year-old mother of four is also a tower of energy, though she stands a mere 4 feet 10 inches tall.Agbor is co-owner and operator or Harambee', a new gift shop of African gifts and fashions at 900 S. 272 East. The store is a partnership between Agbor, a Nigerian, and Alexis Greenidge, an African-American who now lives in Arizona. Harambee', a ki-Swahili word, means "united effort" or "coming together to make things happen."

The three-room store is filled with hand-carved masks and sculptures, kente cloth and other indigenous fabric, clothing, cards, prints, calendars and beads from around the world. Most of the textiles and carvings are from Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

"This is a step in promoting the global economy and cultural interdependence," Agbor said. "The store will educate children in this valley on Africa, especially black children. They don't have much to reflect on here."

Agbor, who has lived in Salt Lake City for the past 12 years, thinks Utah is a good place to rear children.

During the day, she's a full-time teacher at Child Behavioral Therapy Unit, a division of Valley Mental Health. In the evening, she tends shop until 7 p.m., then goes home to her best friends, her four sons- 14, 16, 20 and 22.

She's been a single parent for the past eight years. As if all of that isnt' enough, Agbor is very active in the LDS Church as secretary of a stake Relief Society. She is also vice president of the Salt Lake Valley's Nigerian Association.

Before the partnership, Agbor operated an African textiles business from her home for two years. Her entry into the business world is really an emotional response to the ignorance many Americans continue to have about Africa.

"I kept seeing Africa characterized as all jungles, giraffes and elephants. The human side of Africa remains unknown," she said. "I started with talks to people in churches and at the university. The clothes were a way I could tell people about Africa and Nigeria and let them know different doesn't mean bad. It is out own uniqueness that makes us a people."

Agbor said business has been fairly slow since door opened four weeks ago. She attributes that to the fact that "folks don't know we exist."

However, a successful open house two weekends ago confirmed that there is support in the community.

As Harambee' grows, Agbor would like to add storytellers and lessons on African culture to its lineup. Her ultimate dream is establishing a scholarship fund for college-bound blacks.

"It would be nice to make money," Agbor says, philosophically, "but education is more important."