Fashion for a Cause
Now more than ever, small businesses are struggling through the COVID-19 Pandemic. In this series, we feature standout Indigenous women-owned fashion businesses that are not only thriving and surviving during the Pandemic, but they’re continuing to contribute to the community through the chaos. These Indigenous female business owners share with us about their companies, how they continue to incorporate their culture into products, their contributions to various causes in their communities, and how they’re surviving in the Pandemic.
A multi-talented fine artist, Rykelle Kemp’s vast array of creations and jewelry, serve multiple purposes besides sharing Indigenous cultures and stories with the world; they contributed to the community. In addition to her first artistic expression, printmaking, Kemp found her creative passion for jewelry making and design in 2015. Kemp’s current works of art represent the knowledge she has attained through her studies of her tribes of the southwest and the southeast United States. She is a Mvskoke Creek Nation member, and her tribes include Choctaw, Euchee-Mvskoke Creek, and Diné. She works out of her home studio, where she produces her mono-silk screen prints, mix-medium artworks, and metalwork.
About the Founder
I’m a full-time artist and have been for the past five years. I started my creative path through fine arts, specifically printmaking and mixed medium art, around 2002. Since then, I have been doing art markets and gallery shows, showing my mono-type prints, mono-silkscreen prints, and mixed medium original pieces.
It wasn’t until five to six years ago I decided to get into metalwork. I wanted to learn traditionally but found it hard to find someone willing to teach me, so I took it upon myself to learn. I took a basic silver class at an art school in Phoenix, where I learned the basic metalwork ideas. I then taught my self techniques through books, videos, and through trial-and-error, and created my unique style that was all my own.
After realizing that I was passionate about making jewelry, I decided to start my small business, Ahlazua-Indigenous Woman Made, around two to three years ago. That has grown to include other handmade goods such as journals, masks, t-shirts, and fun stuff like art stickers and pins. My ideas keep growing and developing into new projects and goods.
I decided to use Ahlazua as my business name and my moniker because, in all actuality, it is my name too. Ahlazua is a Euchee name given to me by my grandma Josephine and my great aunt Awie when I was a baby. My Euchee and Choctaw side of my family had always felt distant since I grew up and Arizona and didn’t travel to Oklahoma too often. So when it came time to name my business, I wanted to honor my Euchee name.
How Ahlazua shares the beauty of Indigenous culture and heritage with the world
I believe our culture is inherently beautiful, so of course, I love to make things that are shiny, sparkly, and pretty to look at and feels good to wear. But lately, I’ve been thinking, “how can I make something beautiful or thought-provoking that speaks about my heritage or Indigenous issues in today’s space, to be seen and heard?” Besides making beautiful pieces, I want to make things that mean something, because we as Indigenous people are still here creating and adding to our narratives. I want to make sure that the things I make encapsulate that idea and sentiment. Our culture is beautiful, and artists and creatives are here to be the storytellers. I want to make my ancestors proud.
Giving Back & Contributing to the Community with Ahlazua
I think giving back to your community is very important. My parents instilled that in me at a young age. For the past two years, I’ve been the co-chair for the Phoenix Indian Center’s annual fundraising event Silver & Turquoise Ball. I also saw the opportunity to support other organizations through my platform too. I am not, by all means, the biggest business, but I give what I can. These organizations are the ones I’ve been donating to currently:
-Navajo & Hopi COVID Relief Fund:https://www.gofundme.com/f/NHFC19Relief
-LGBTQ Freedom Fund: https://www.lgbtqfund.org/
-Migizi Minneapolis: https://www.migizi.org/
-Diné Pride Nááts’ íílid Rainbow Scholarship: https://www.navajonationpride.com/rainbow-scholars
I recently came across this great organization that supports Indigenous youth and mental health called the ‘We Matter Campaign.’ I honestly wish they had something like this when I was younger. They have videos of other Indigenous youth, artists, politicians, athletes, etc., speaking to the camera in videos letting the youth know they are worthy and loved. They also provide counseling and other services. You can find that here: www.wemattercampaign.org.
Being creative and taking care of the family during the Pandemic
As a full-time artist, I would be getting home right about now from traveling to Santa Fe Indian Art Market and all the other shows I do during the summer. But instead, like others, I am home trying to focus on other creative ways to keep my sales up. I am so thankful to be with my family; I feel like the household protector since my parents and brother have underlying health issues. They are my number one priority right now, keeping them healthy. I’m just so lucky that they are all artists, so it feels like one big collaborative artist-in-residency program.
Shop Ahlazua Fine Arts at NATIVEWOMANMADE.COM.