Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What I'm Working On: African Adornments

The term "Statement Necklace" seems to be very popular right now. We're seeing a lot of ingeniously crafted pieces using both conventional and unconventional materials intended to make a statement for the wearer. One of the joys of collecting African beads is that the entire vast continent has a history of making statements with its jewelry and adornments. African jewelry delights and involves us because so much of it tells a literal story its makers and wearers. "I'm a Christian, and I come from such-and-such a city..." (Ethiopia). "I'm a bride, and today is my wedding day..." (Mali). "I'm a young man of the Masai, and I'm undertaking my training as a warrior..." (East Africa). " Or perhaps simply, "I love you ..." (Zulu people, South Africa). All over Africa, people traditionally combine their mode of dress, their hairstyle, and their bodily adornments to tell the world who they are, where they come from, what they believe, what place they have in society.

I've recently acquired a few of strands of "Mali Wedding Beads." These beauties come in a variety of shapes and a rainbow of bright, primary colors. Originally manufactured in Bohemia or Czechoslovakia, contemporary examples are now being made in Ghana. The fortunate brides of Mali are given strands of these beads to wear on their wedding days. Though the beads have a very contemporary look, their shapes and colors date back to the 19th Century. Good strands of Mali wedding beads aren't inexpensive, and the tendency among Western designers is to break up the strands and use the individual beads for pendants, earrings, and bracelets. I love the traditional look of the massed beads and imagine them setting off a crisp white shirt or a turtleneck. I'm combining the beads with aluminum heishi and adding a fanciful little "counterweight" to dangle at the back. Here's one of the three I've made so far using some fine antique Czech beads:
Written by: Anne of Atelier-Beads

1 comment:

tarabu said...

Yup, that's a statement all right (what I heard it say was 'sha-zam, that's nice!)