Posted 10 years ago
If you have found me I am happy. There is no catagory for Afrikan items, or ethnic items other Native American, and there is no catagory for ethnic jewelry, so I have done my best in selecting catagories. For those of you who found me in fine jewelry. this is infact fine Afrikan jewelry by any traditional definition. Thank you.
This is one of my favorite jewelry pieces. It is composed of ostrich egg shell discs, cowry shells, antelope toe bones, Fala brass bell, wood, copal ie thermal plasic/bakelite (made in Britain in the 1880s and traded on the Afrikan continent), and copper British colonial coins. The ostrich egg shell discs were most commonly used among the Zulu of Southern Afrika. These discs were shaped from the shell of the ostrich by cutting the shell into small pieces and making a hole in the middle. Once strung it is reported that they then beat the strung shell against the wall of the mud huts in order to round off the edges creating a unified size and shape. The Zulu then sewed these onto the traditional leather garments that they made and wore (the women).
The cowry shell was the first universal form of currency on the Afrikan continent, and though it eventually was supplanted by other forms of currency its importance as a symbolism of wealth remained for a long time to come. It still holds an important and symbolic role in many Afrikan cultures. Among the Kuba of the Congo, the royal garment is entirely encrusted with cowries. These days, however, the chief rarely wears it in its entirety due to its enormous weight.
The antelope toe bones are from the Turkana of southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The Turkana are traditionally nomadic. These toe bones can be seen worn by the young girls as belts about their waists.
The Fala, also known as the Kirdi, of Kamerun, West Afrika, are known to create a wide variety of brass objects in the form of beads and amulets, the brass bell is just one of many types coming from them.
The wood which is barely seen in this piece is just a non-descript, worm eaten, donut shape that no doubt had a function whose purpose and meaning has been lost to the elders who have past, leaving behind generations of more western oriented Afrikans for whom these things have little importance. For some it represents a perceived primitiveness of which Afrikans feel shame, and from which they wish to distance themselves. Like everything else it has a history, unfortunately unknown.
Thermal plastic beads in the 1960s were commonly referred to as amber or copal. Their color was typically butterscotch, and traditionally worn by amber wearing Afrikans, who unlike western consumers distinguished the difference between real amber and the British thermal plastic/bakelite. The British produced thermal plastic in canes for export to Afrika. It was traded in many regions. It is not difficult to discern the region in which these canes were traded by the manner in which the locals cut and fashioned the canes into beads, and the surface treatment of the beads.
The colonial coins are of British origin and just one of a long line of currency that replaced local currencies.
This piece has been constructed with iron wire symbolic of strength in many cultures. Both iron and copper were at one time more highly valued than gold or silver. Only in recent times has gold come to replace traditional jewelry, although in some cases is still fashioned in traditional forms.