Hailing from Kumasi, Ghana in West Africa and now living in Oakland, Ellen Manu-Bimpeh has been running Sankofa African Arts & Jewelry for over 20 years.
The term “sankofa” means to return back to one’s roots, as Manu-Bimpeh says, which is exactly what a trip to her store does.
On the walls of 2433 Telegraph Ave., Sankofa is filled with African masks, jewelry and sculptures from Kenya, Ghana, Gambia and Nigeria. Many of the amber and silver jewelry, Kente and Bubuo cloth, Dashikis, and handmade purses are made by Manu-Bimpeh’s daughter, Kike.
Before opening Sankofa African Arts & Jewelry in 1994, the store owner arrived to the US in 1991 no stranger to the hard work that it took to run a business. Manu-Bimpeh began to learn the art of business at the age of nine in Ghana when she would go with her mother to the market selling headscarves and other fabrics.
When asked about what she expected of the United States before she arrived, Manu-Bimpeh said, “I knew there would be challenges but I knew I was going to make it.”
Manu-Bimpeh worked many night jobs while running Sankofa in its beginning stages at her original Solano location in Albany.
She would then expand to having two different locations on Bay Street in Emeryville before moving to Frank Ogawa Plaza and later to where she is now located on Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.
23 years after opening Sankofa, Manu-Bimpeh attributes most of her success to treating everyone the same and knowing how to provide. Sankofa Arts & Jewelry provides people with the rich tradition and many cultures of African people.
One may see Sankofa driving down Telegraph Ave. on First Fridays, or on the weekends at the Ashby Flea Market. For more information on Sankofa, call (510) 444-0149 or visit the Oakland store.