Health, Healing and Happiness
Health, Healing and Happiness
by Mary Hope Roseneau Photography Jasmina Kimova
Donellia Chives’ logo for her business is a lavender butterfly, with the word NGOME on it. But look closer at the butterfly’s wings: they are silhouettes of two women, and transformation of women is what Donellia is all about.
Meeting her at the LyBenson Art Gallery in downtown Beaufort, along with her two daughters, was so much fun. We were surrounded by beautiful objects from all over the world, but mostly African and Gullah artifacts, paintings and sculpture. Looking for a place to sit, Donnellia jokingly chose a large brass throne. In fact, she sees herself, and all women, as queens, and royalty, and she did look quite regal trying out the expensive piece of art.
We settled for folding chairs, and squeezed in a quick chat between her schedule of charity fashion show planning and buying school clothes for her three children. Such is the life for all women in their “Queendom,” balancing work and family, but Donellia does it with style.
Asked to describe herself, Donellia took a breath and considered. “I’m a stylist, a designer, a visionary, an artist, a curator, and. . . (after a pause) a healer.” She previously had her work displayed at ArtWorks, but is now focused on an online, social media presence, as well as “word of mouth” recommendations.
She is inspired by women (particularly her family and African ancestors), and sees her life’s work to inspire other women. She offers private consultations to design wardrobes that are individualized to a woman’s natural beauty within and without. She also commissions beautiful works of wearable art to be sewn by seamstresses in Africa, as well as the U.S., to be shown in fashion shows, popup boutiques, online venues, or private wardrobe showings.
Her choice of fabrics and materials is always related to nature. Most of the designs on the cloth are animals, insects, plants, flowers and stars. There is a mystical, spiritual side to all her creations. For jewelry she chooses materials as they are natural in nature: ivory, wood, bronze, brass. She sees a connection in what women wear and the earth, sky, and sea from whence she came.
When asked about her background, Donellia smiles and says, “Well, I’ve come back home. I’m a native of Port Royal, and love even the “royal” sound of it.” She received an Associate of Arts Degree in Fashion Design from American InterContinental University in Atlanta in 1997, a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from USC Beaufort, a Masters degree in Psychology from Walden University, and has started working on her PhD.
In addition, she has three children: a son named Emperor, 15; a daughter, Heaven, 14; and daughter Nasira, 11. The two girls waited patiently during the interview, and did not interrupt. I asked them to describe their mother to me, such as “is she a strict mom?” They said not that much, but “Yes, you have to clean your room and do well in school. And eat healthy food,” the younger girl added. “We are kind of like vegetarians,” Nasira offered, “but we like seafood.” Doniella supplied the term “pescatarians” and they all three giggled. “Of course we have to be, living here in the Lowcountry”, we all agreed.
This lead into a discussion of Doniella’s quest for a return to the natural eating and healing cures handed down by generations of women. The amazing thing is they usually worked! Teas, herbs, salves, and pastes were usually elder women’s expertise in the community, and these magical recipes were handed down from one generation to another. That is, until recently.
Donellia seeks to recapture this knowledge and share it with her own daughters, as well as the community. Health, healing, and happiness are her major interests in her life, equally important as beautiful clothing, jewelry, and couture.
• Nygome is pronounced: “N-Go-Me,” an acronym for Natural Goddess/God of Mother Earth.
• Her top three charities: “A to Zed Edu,” a nonprofit foundation dedicated to children in Zambia, “Little Dresses for Africa,” pillowcase dresses for girls in Africa, and “Gullah Daughters of Purpose,” a role model and guidance program for teen girls in Beaufort County.
• Future plans? Moving soon into a big new building everyone is talking about; the three story Black Chamber of Commerce building on Bladen Street in Beaufort. She will have a space on the first floor to display her wearable art, as well as meet with clients privately for consultations.
• Her first fashion inspiration: came from her New York grandmother, who allowed her to play with her fancy jewelry, hats, gloves, and other accessories.
• Her dream: to visit Africa. We think she’ll do it!
Visit Donellia's online boutique at www.ngomeinc.com for more information.