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  • Tessie de Ponti

Purr Binta: The Story

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Today is a special day, because it would have been my toma Binta Tessies 1th birthday. 

It's a day of sad emotions, memories, and a day of celebration!


It should have been not a suprise to us, but it was also a day with lots of laughing because unexpected things happened, so that smiling was the best thing to do about it.


We brought a great project PurrBinta a step further. What we can say about this project is "Bring African smiles with you handmade bag". Purr Binta means, for Binta in one of the local languages in Senegal & The Gambia. Purr can also mean "pure”. But of course there is more about this project, so here is a more expanded story.

The 3th of August, we heard the very sad news that my toma Binta Tessie died pretty unexpected. Unfortunately the health care in The Gambia is really bad, so they couldn't safe her life.

That day, I was walking as a zombie in the streets of Utrecht, and like always carrying one of the bags. I am using them all the time, because they are just beautiful, very practical and the Netherlands can use some more colours. Me and my friend and colleague Bas were still trying (sometimes) to bring this project further. But this was not very easy.


Even I was very emotional, we knew direcly that we have to and want to turn this loss into something positive, because Binta brought so much smiles and connection. Not only in The Gambia, but also to my friends and family here when I showed videos and photos of her. She had always this stubborn face like she was making jokes, chubby cheeks which made clear she loved food a lot, and made this connection everywhere that made people smile. Her dad said: "she was really my best friend, and even the last day she made the people in the hospital smile".

My parents came straight to Utrecht from a long weekend in the South of the Netherlands, where a lot of de Ponti family lives with whom they would spend their weekend. We talked a lot about Binta Tessie and the connection with the people in the Smiling coast of Africa, and the challenges it also brings. We shared memories, we listened to music music, and even when it was such a sad day we had warm feelings and created a lot of positivity out of it. 


Suprisingly at that day because mostly I am energetic and smiling, this day I was looking like a sad zombie. Some girl and her boyfriend approached me, and were so interested and enthusiastic about the bag I was carrying. This happens many times to us in festivals, in gym, in Londen, in holidays, in supermarket and metro stations. My dad had to help me to tell the story. But from that moment we knew, we want to bring this project further. Bas and me said, we can change the name to Binta, and make it more easy to turn this sad event in name of her to positivity in this business. We asked for the African translation from there and chose for PurrBinta as our new name. 

My dad said at the end of the day when we were having a drink and celebrating life. I think this is our power, that even when things seem not so great, we always find lust of live “levenslust” to make something positive out of it and enjoy the moment. 

This is something in me and for sure something I got from those Power Ponti genes, this endless energy and positivity I try to share with people around me in daily life. But also something, I can still even develop more, or put in a project/product to spread it around further than only my work and people very close to me.

Binta Tessie had this same kind of power, as her family told me. At the naming ceremony when she was named after me, they said: "we hope she will have the spirit of Tessie". 

Luckily there are many people around me with the same spirit and also passion for Africa like Bas. And this is the spirit we want to spread around with these colourfull bags, made with true passion and smiles, in the Smiling coast of Africa.

We were so impressed about this, that with true passion and smiles I can say, every single bag has this special attention like it's the first one that a tailor made. An example of this was when we were making those photos and videos of the bags, the tailor with the best smile, looked at all the bags with such a great smile and proud that we thought he wanted to keep all of them for himself. My dad always says, this is the best way of how to sell things. So we will see!  Also, someone told me that some background story is very useful to get understanding so I will explain a bit more about the whole story that brought us here today.


I knew from when I was a child, and probably because of my uncle Ben de Ponti inspired me that I felt a special connection with Africa. Of course you cannot generalise Africa as one thing. But there is something in the people, culture and nature that always deeply impressed me and gave me a warm feeling, even if I had never been there. I put posters of beautiful photos with people and nature on my high sleeper in my student life in Maastricht. In 2015, I went to The Gambia on holiday. I love adventures and explore new places, so normally I do not travel back to the same place. In the Smiling coast of Africa I felt directly at home. Luckily I could transport this passion to my mom, and later Melody who both also joined the project of Binta Tessie. Bas, already made this connection before in The Gambia and Senegal.


"Bring African Smiles with your handmade bag!"


The pure African spirit makes you feel connected with people, yourself, nature, passion about life, music, dance, and be positive. Even when daily life circumstances are not so great.

The "everything is possible" mentality, and the creative solutions that people find in the moment for any kind of problems, inspires and brings joy.




With lots of smiles we wish we can bring some more happiness,

Bas, José, Dina, Seedy, the tailors, the people from the Craftmarket, Binta Tessie's family, and Binta Tessie


PS 20 tourists are on their way to bring the next stock, you have to be patient ;)!



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