Meet Anouchka Sooriamoorthy-Desvaux de Marigny who came up with a brilliant and innovative idea to make this historic jute bag into luxury items available at the adresses below which she proudly share with us today.
But before let us re-share the work from Vintage Mauritius and some valuable history on this famous Goni.
‘Goni’ is the Mauritian Creole word for jute. Jute bags are part of the Mauritian history: they were used to wrap sugar canes. This word represents our philosophy: inspired by the beauty and the history of Mauritius, we make handmade, plastic free and authentic products. ‘Goni’ is a tropical chic and beach style brand.
GRNW – Women Washing Aloe Fibres in the River for Gounis Bags
Goni, apart from being used for packing commodities, was well-entrenched in the Mauritian tradition. It had a myriad of uses. It served as mattress for both the indentured labourers and the African slaves. The sugar-cane cutters used to wrap it around their waist up till their knees and also wore “souliers goni” in order to protect their legs and feet against sharp sugar-cane leaves. The dockers used to cover their heads to avoid deposit of dust on their hair and shoulders. The underprivileged utilized it as blanket to warm themselves in cold winters. Children in olden days used goni for sack-racing in their schools’ sports competition. The bhandari (chef in biryani) used it as apron when handling the deg (large traditional cauldron) on flaming fire. It also gave rise to a Mauritian proverb which goes like that “Goni vid pa kapav dibout” (Empty gunny bag cannot stand on its own).
Goni was also used to store old documents, outdated household items, artefacts and family objects of the previous generation. This old sack, for which nobody had any use anymore, would remain stacked for several years unnoticed in the machaan (mezzanine store) of the house until alerted by the attack of termites. In his novel “The Gunny Sack”, M.G. Vassenji, the Commonwealth Writers Award Winner, immortalizes the last memories of a family coming out of the gunny sack. “Salim Juma, in exile from Tanzania, opens up a gunny sack bequeathed to him by a beloved great-aunt. Inside he discovers the past – his own family’s history and the story of Asian experience in East Africa. Its relics and artefacts bring with them the lives of Salim’s Indian great grandfather, Dhanji Govindji, his extensive family and all their loves and betrayals”.
Goni had once been deep-rooted in the socio-economic fabric of Mauritius. It was not only a commodity prized by the sugar oligarchy, but a companion of all seasons in the routine life of Mauritians of all background. Today, it has been dethroned by plastic bags. The present generation does not seem to have any idea of how goni had once been an integral part of the Mauritian tradition. It is incumbent upon the custodians of our patrimony and museum to preserve the specimen, artefacts, folklore and tradition about goni and retrieve the last vestiges of goni industry. It is regrettable that the ruins of the old aloe factory at Trou-aux-Biches have disappeared under the sway of morcellement and spatial development. The relics could have been spared, not only for tourist attraction, but for reminding the present generation and posterity about the canvas and contours of our socio-economic history.
Discover here story, her passion for the GONI !
She had the opportunity to live several professional lives already. After graduating from High School at the Lycée Labourdonnais in Mauritius, Anouchka Sooriamoorthy-Desvaux de Marigny left for Paris, where she studied literature and philosophy at La Sorbonne University and got a Ph.D. Interested in journalism, she worked during four years for Air France magazine in Paris. The wanderlust brought her to Dubai, where she teaches philosophy to young adults. In 2018, she embarked on the adventure of entrepreneurship, creating her clothes and accessories brand, Goni. What’s the common point between all these activities? Creativity and the search for beauty.
1- Who are you?
From my childhood and my adolescence in Mauritius, I keep the sceneries, the scents, and the flavours. My French upbringing and the years I spent in Paris gave me rigour, critical thinking, and the sake of discussion. The past twelve years in Dubai brought me an incredible openness to the world, to difference, and diversity. So, I guess today I’m a mix of all these elements.
2- Where did you start and where are you now in your life?
When I decided to pursue studies in literature and philosophy, I didn’t have a career plan; it was a choice from the heart. I was incredibly lucky to always do what I was passionate about: I started in journalism and worked for Le Monde and Air France magazine in Paris; a few years later, I created a French online newspaper in Dubai. Then I felt the desire for transmission, and I decided to answer the call of teaching. All these experiences have been enriching; but at one point, I felt the need to create. Having lived for many years far from Mauritius didn’t weaken the affection for my homeland, quite the opposite. I could still picture the colours of the lagoon, the smell of the freshly cut sugar cane, or the taste of the spices. It’s precisely this imagery that was my inspiration for my project. On a more professional scale, I wanted a new challenge and to get out of my comfort zone: I didn’t go to a business school, therefore doing a business plan, developing a marketing strategy, prospecting for contracts were very new to me. I was on foreign soil, and I loved it! I learned by doing, I listened to advice from my relatives, and I followed common sense. It turned out to be the right move as, after one year and a half, I’m working with more than ten hotels in Mauritius, and I have lots of new projects in preparation.
3- How did you come up with this idea?
My company’s name is Goni, which means “jute” in Mauritian Creole. The idea came when I was on holiday in Mauritius. On each trip home, I was looking for some unique and original gifts to bring back for my friends in Paris or Dubai. Finding something authentic that was related to the history of Mauritius and was not made in China was a real dare. The idea of pouches and bags made of jute immediately came up: the goni was used since the beginning of the development of agriculture in Mauritius, especially in the sugar industry. I like its rough texture that I combine with colourful fabrics. Since the creation of the brand, I have developed a wide range of products: pouches, bags, headbands, sunglasses pouches, dresses, shirts, sarongs, assorted soaps and toiletry bags, coasters, and our very last creation: a poetry book in French and English celebrating the beauty of Mauritius. The common point between all these products is the pursuit of authenticity. I like the idea that the traveller goes back to his home country bringing an original souvenir of Mauritius: a goni pouch that will wander the streets of Roma, a coaster with the colours of the ocean that will enlighten a Parisian desk in winter, a poetry book which will find its perfect spot on a London bedside table.
4- Tell us more about Goni ADN?
Goni is a handmade and plastic-free brand. Each product is unique and has an original design. In addition, all the products have to be easily transportable, light, not fragile, and useful. All my creations come from my inspiration and imagination. However, I like to work closely with my clients: on the basis of my creations, we start a dialogue which will eventually help me offer tailor-made products that match the identity of the hotel or the company.
5- What is your 2020 vision and mission?
2018 was the reflection and implementation year; 2019 was marked by the professionalization of the project and the commercialization of my products in Mauritian hotels. I now have the shoulders to think big: settle new distribution agreements, form partnerships, and, of course, continue to create new products. What I love about this project is that it’s ever evolving: each encounter, each trip brings new ideas, the sky is the limit! I just finished an exciting collaboration with a fragrance composer who created an original home fragrance for Goni: it’s fresh, fruity with a hint of spice, and it can be declined in several versions (home diffuser, soap, potpourri, etc.). The beginning of 2020 was marked by the development of my corporate gifts catalog, which offers one-of-a-kind products for hotels and companies in the hospitality and tourism sector. Each product can be custom-made and tailored to fit the client’s desiderata. I was surprised to discover that most of the corporate gifts are, still today, factory products or products without any identity. An excellent corporate gift should be the elegant final point of the holidays for the traveler; it represents the spirit and the soul of the company.
I am also working on new products for hotels and companies in the Indian Ocean and in Dubai. I am of course aware that we are globally experiencing an economic slowdown, and that the tourism sector is a high-risk area regarding the covid-19 outbreak. We need to be patient and hopefully things will get better. I am optimistic about a change of mindset: people will be more and more concerned about handmade products and about short distribution circuit.
6- Where can we get your products?
Goni products are available in Mauritius at Royal Palm Beachcomber, Hilton, Lux* Grand-Gaube, Lux* Belle-Mare, Lux* Le Morne, Veranda hotels, Heritage Awali, Heritage Telfair. Blue Penny Museum shop. In Tahiti, French Polynesia, Goni products are also available in two high-end concept stores: Rose Corail and Blue Flamingo.
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