Entrepreneur Alice Abiya Answers Some Questions About Her Impressions of Pittsburgh and the Strip District

    Alice Abiya

    Where are you from?

    I am from a French-speaking country in central Africa called Cameroon. It is also known as mini-Africa because one can find almost every tribe, culture, and food there. Consequently, a visit to Cameroon can make you feel as though you have visited all the countries of Africa. In addition, the Cameroon national football team has been known for being one of the most successful in Africa since its strong showing in the 1982 and 1990 FIFA world cup. My country has won five national titles and the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. And the team is today “King of Africa” in football (soccer), a title the team just won this past February.


    What were your thoughts on your first visit to the Strip?

    My first thought was that the Strip was an interesting and all-encompassing marketplace. The city of gold and black colors captured my heart and mind. Also, I was fascinated by printed names on t-shirts such as “Pittsburghese” and “dahntahn.” I was intrigued, as I was of the view that these were different languages, separate and apart from English. I had never heard of these languages before and thus wanted to learn them. In my quest to do so, I had a good laugh, when I discovered that “Pittsburghese” is just a dialect that is unique to Western Pennsylvania and that “dahntahn” simply means downtown. Another thing I found captivating about the Strip was the ambiance and the joy I saw on people’s faces as they strolled the streets and found exactly what they were looking for.


    Have you changed your mind about anything regarding the Strip or Pittsburgh since you first came here?

    No, I have not. Nothing has changed. The impression I formulated from my first visit to the city remains the same today. I am still enthralled by the culture and absolutely adore this small, quiet, family-orientated city. As it relates to the Strip, I do not think anything can change my mind about this place. The people are awesome, helpful, kind, and supportive.


    Why did you decide to sell your art in the Strip rather than elsewhere?

    Well, I like the environment, the ambiance, and the sense of connection I feel with the people. Additionally, the area has a “homey” feel to it, in that the landscape along the side of the river surrounded by businesses reminds me of Duala, my native town in Cameroon. I have a deep connection with water, as it causes me to experience serenity and a quiet mind and spirit. So naturally, engaging in a gainful occupation by doing what I love, in an area where I can be close to the water, is a dream come true. I also find inspiration and a pleasant joy in selling my art.


    How are Pittsburghers different from people in other places you have lived?

    I believe one difference I have observed is rooted in the celebration of traditional food and culture between my country and Pittsburgh. In addition, the names both cities call their population is so different. If you are from the native in Duala, then you will be called Mota Sawa (a man of Sawa) or Muta Sawa (a woman of Sawa). The Sawa population celebrates once a year a festival called Ngodo. It gathers all the Sawa people by the river called Worry.


    What is your bestselling product?

    I have two items that are highly sought after. They are the Weya Silver Bracelet and the Coco Bracelet. The Weya Silver Bracelet is made out of wood (weya) and large and small silver crystals. It’s a very beautiful piece for folks who wear silver and gold jewelry. The Coco Bracelet, on the other hand, is made out of coconut, and has pure natural products, for those who value those things. I also have other unique items for special occasions.


    Is there anything you have seen in other places that would be good to have in Pittsburgh?

    What I have seen in other places that I believe would greatly benefit Pittsburgh is a greater array of African artifacts. I am amazed at the number of my customers who appreciate these products and make a lot of purchases.


    How long have you been selling your art in the Strip? Do you sell it anywhere else?

    It has been almost one year now since I have been selling my arts in the Strip. And by the way, I am looking for distributors, as I believe I have unique products at great prices that people would really love and appreciate.

    Anyone interested in my products can stop by and see them. I am located at 21st Street and Penn Avenue, at the corner of Mon Amiee Chocolat. You can also visit me on the Web at www.AbiyasArt.com.

    Finally, you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at AbiyasArt@gmail.com and subscribe to receive my monthly newsletter.