Meet Nanibaa (pronounced Non-ih-buh), boss babe and artist of Not Above jewelry based out of Laveen Arizona. Her brand name itself is something to fall in love with- coming about from her favorite mispronunciation of her name, she felt it was a beautiful way to work with others, not above them but beside them. Her designs embody her traditional Dine’ (Navajo) background with a style fresh enough for wear in the modern world. Not Above started when she was inspired to create her "original language necklaces" in her hand sawn minimalistic style. I got a chance to catch up with this lovely lady by phone and learn more about why each piece she designs means something and what we should all remember about Native culture.
Just remember that everywhere you go in this country is all Native land, and we are still here. Respect that. -Nanibaa
Nanibaa on how it all began:
I grew up watching and learning from my jeweler father and began making his designs at the age of 13, which gave me certain skills that would eventually lead to the beginning of my own line. After my studies I was inspired by several different events to revisit my background in jewelry. I started designing 5 years ago but I’ve only started to do the work I’m really proud of in the last two years… my personal expectations are closer to being met.
On the significance of turquoise in her work:
Turquoise is one our four sacred stones which represent by our four sacred mountains surrounding Diné Bikeyah (Diné Homelands). Turquoise is connected to our culture, and is part of our creation stories. My dad always made sure we understood the cultural importance of turquoise and its natural beauty, so for me these stones are what keep my jewelry Dine’.
On the biggest challenge as a Native woman in business:
My biggest challenge has been maintaining the confidence to know that the knowledge that I have at this moment is enough. You may feel like you can’t do something, but you really have everything you need to do what you need to do… it’s all inside of you. I know I am not alone in navigating this path. I am thankful for my support system of other Native creatives and entrepreneurs, we all face the same challenges.
On how those of us who aren’t indigenous can best support the Native community:
- Knowing the difference between products that are Native inspired and Native made is so important. People don’t realize how much time goes into making an authentic piece vs. mass manufacturing something that just copies our culture.
- The Native American history you were taught in school is not the accurate history. There is still so much of our tradition alive today.. so many languages and dialects that are still preserved.
- Just remember that everywhere you go in this country is all Native land, and we are still here. Respect that.