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Ideology of Adornment
exploring the influence of jewelry

Posted by Akin Adebowale on

An Ideology of

Adornment

Photography by Amandla Baraka
As told by Jayde Stuckey

 

Though Ancient Egypt is widely received as history’s first interaction with gold, there are signs of its existence dating back to 40,000 B.C. From pharaohs to the Cash Money Millionaires, jewelry has remained a sign of affluence amongst people of color for ages. Glistening golds and platinum in the mouths of raging youth seem incomparable to the golden, semiprecious-stoned inner-lining of the Tutankhamun’s coffin. Contrary to popular belief, the obsession with flexing may not be attributed to a desire for flashiness, instead, it may be a sign of sociocultural evolution.

I n African culture, statement jewelry isn’t your average gold-plated monogram necklace. Every piece of adornment is a statement in and of itself, representative of specific groups of people. For the non-believers, here are some ‘long-story-short’ examples of the greater meaning of jewelry: Beads, used in Africa over 75,000 years ago, can be used for prayer and mark social status, marital status, or tribe. The South African Ndebele women practice neck-stretching, sporting gold rings called idzila about their necks. The amount of rings are indicative of the husband’s wealth. From the 15th century, the Akan peoples of Ghana, known for their intricate goldwork, use the precious metal to signify kingship or high political power. From the Asante of West Africa to the Wodaabe of Central Africa, jewelry on the continent is often relative to status, climate, and, in general, culture.

Now, close your eyes and imagine giraffes with short necks. As completely batshit crazy as that is, French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck believed that throughout centuries of reaching to trees for food, the necks of giraffes became progressively longer to adapt (essentially, to eat and survive). Sociocultural evolution, arising from the Darwinian evolution theory and similar to Lamarckian inheritance, implies that cultural traits acquired during a lifetime are passed down to offsprings and generations to follow. I say all of this to say, if thine ancestors blinged, thou too shalt bling bling. More than vanity, it’s culture. Here’s how OXOSI puts a ring on it.

L’Enchanteur jewelry, handcrafted by twins Dynasty and Soull Ogun, is ‘inspired by numerology, colour theory, religion,’ and other sciences. The metalsmiths are based in Brooklyn, expressing themselves through products like the Siam Clawset Nail Rings, available in 22K gold-plated brass and sterling silver. ‘Inspired by Siam Thai dancers, these nail rings pay homage to the ancient art of dance, elegance, and beauty.’

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KHIRY, founded by young designer Jameel Mohammed, ‘focuses on femininity’ with a goal of ‘identifying and celebrating African aesthetic.’ New to OXOSI, ‘each collection explores the beautiful and diverse cultures of the African diaspora, uncovering the parallels between distinct cultures and reinterpreting traditional cultural elements into contemporary luxury goods.’


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