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Zuri Watu is Reclaiming Africa's Royal Legacy through Luxury Playing Cards

Details of history are often skewed to pat commonized and fragmented narratives, especially for a once marginalized hinterland like Africa—a fate Duke Ata has strived to remould. In an effort to shed light on Africa in all its glory, Ata created Zuri Watu a luxury playing card brand which reveres the distinguished kings, queens, and leaders that shaped the continent's resplendent history and cultural legacy. 

Zuri Watu's Mansa Musa playing card from Heritage Cards Collection
Zuri Watu's Mansa Musa playing card from Heritage Cards Collection

Inspired by the Swahili term for "people of beauty", the Zuri Watu brand challenges the limited perspectives that have long pacified Africa's told stories. It seeks to redefine the narrative by honouring iconic leaders whose legacies have stood through time, thus reclaiming the continent's rich heritage and celebrating its magnificence. 

With its exquisitely crafted bespoke collection “Heritage Playing Cards”, brought to life under the guidance of Mark Modimola, an adroit South African artist, the minds behind Zuri Watu dedicated themselves to unravelling the beauty beneath the surface of Africa's history and royal pedigrees, including architecture, plateaus, and traditional ornaments. As an African, Duke relished creating the Heritage Playing Card collection to celebrate the iconic rulers and royal legacies that have shaped the continent's illustrious history—legacies that he believed are often overlooked or misrepresented.

"The collaborative approach with African creatives, historians, and artisans was crucial to bringing the Zuri Watu vision to life authentically. Their expertise and guidance ensured that every aspect of the collection – from artistic motifs to storytelling – respectfully and accurately represented the nuances of Africa's royal legacies. The research and artwork had been developed over 4 years, as such a lot of emphasis has been placed on historical accuracy on the one hand and design aesthetics on the other, to create the most beautiful playing cards," Duke revealed.

Nzinga Mbande playing card from Heritage Cards Collection © Zuri Watu

Each crafted deck in the collection represents a specific royal lineage, with touches of visually stunning gold accents. These decks transport players through the ancient kingdoms, empires, and civilizations that once thrived across Africa's vast lands. From the legendary wealth of Mansa Musa's Mali Empire to the fearless Zulu warriors under Shaka's reign, every card is a masterpiece created to instil a sense of pride in all who call Africa home.

Despite operating in the luxury space, Duke explained that its vision extends beyond just products. "Through partnerships with cultural institutions, educational initiatives, and community programs, we aim to make Africa's heritage accessible and inspire a sense of pride across all socioeconomic backgrounds." He said.

For the future of Zuri Watu, Duke expressed his aspirations to expand the brand into a full lifestyle establishment that will feature more collectables and experiences. He also envisions opening a flagship retail location to serve as an event and exhibition space, extending their mission to honour Africa's regal legacy. "We will also occasionally partner with non-African creatives from various underrepresented parts of the world to tell more impactful stories," he further mentioned.

Notwithstanding the widespread acceptance and reception of the Heritage card collection, Zuri Watu's first set of decks so far, Duke is convinced that this is only a kick to the ball. As he puts it, "We are only just beginning, there is still a lot of work to be done to get the brand out there."

Visit the Zuri Watu website here.

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Zuri Watu is Reclaiming Africa's Royal Legacy through Luxury Playing Cards

June 17, 2024

Art Report Africa

2 min read

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