It’s the newest fashion item in college and Uni at the moment. Students are outdoing each other in rocking the seemingly African jewellery and ornaments known as Shambalas. The name sounds African and the art work on the unisex necklaces and bangles could be mistakenly be associated to ornaments our ancestors adorned. Some assume Shamballa is a name coined by residents of Eastlands, Nairobi but actually the jewelry is widely used in Europe and the US but with origins in Asia and has been evolving as a fashion accessory over the last 10 years.
Originally inspired by the ancient Tibetan prayer bracelets that were hand woven through simplistic design to aid in meditation, the ornament has literally shattered its way into the fashion scene. It is believed bracelets helped Buddhists and yoga practitioners to meditate and cut off any unnecessary links with the material world. Different colors and shapes also rely different messages. The Shamballa is basically a kind of a cord incorporating shiny hollow beads. It is adorned around the neck and wrists and fastened using pairs of strings but many people are customizing their jewelry to suite their taste and color.
“I do not know much about the historical aspect of the ornaments but what I can tell you for sure is that it is a fashion sensation among the youth,” said a vendor at his Lynton gift shop at The Hilton.
Has it been a hit with the youth? Well… since Taio of the popular Camp Mullah music group and his band mates spotted with the Shamballas on their hit music video ‘Hold It Down’, the demand for the jewelry has been nothing but phenomenal.
It’s not just the local market that has exploded. Paris Hilton, T.I, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Michael Jordan, LeBron James and even royalty such as Princess Mary of Denmark have been seen by the public adorning the new-found fashion symbol.
But comparing the Shambalas worn by celebrities and luminaries is akin to matching up a Toyota Probox and a Lamborghini because they are just incomparable. This is because some come cheap while others have a hefty price tag attached to their laurels.
“We source our products both locally and internationally at a wholesale price then re-sell them to the high end clientele who we predominantly target. The elegant ones are from London Jewelers or other gift shops from the States (US) and are considered luxury versions because they are made with either black and white diamond encrusted beads, rubies or even sapphires. They do not come cheap,” adds the vendor at the gift shop.
The cheapest of the high-end Shamballas go for USD 100 but of course you won’t find the ordinary student in these exclusive shops. Some students have gone as far as making their own versions by watching Youtube videos or by help of friends.
“I purchase mine from the streets at a very affordable price of between Shs30 and 50. When wearing, them no one can tell the difference between the expensive and the cheap one and this makes me feel good about myself,” said Samantha, a student at the UoN.