In Summary
  • Common materials used in African jewellery include ivory, carved stone, bone, sea shells, animal teeth, animal hair, egg shells, wood, amber and even glass.
  • Jewellery has been used on the continent to convey different messages within the community – first being wealth.
  • It was also often used to communicate status. Certain stones or craftsmanship were reserved for the chiefs or royalty of the community to highlight their position in society, while others indicated marital status.

Jewellery is often described as an ornament made of gold, silver or precious stones used for personal adornment. Common materials used in African jewellery include ivory, carved stone, bone, sea shells, animal teeth, animal hair, egg shells, wood, amber and even glass.

Jewellery is not just about beauty but also a symbol created based on long-standing traditions, and their designs convey important information about the wearer. Jewellery has been used on the continent to convey different messages within the community – first being wealth. A staple in many dowry and marriage arrangements, it would reflect the estimated value of the union. Once the woman collected a sizeable jewellery stockpile, such as in the Saharan communities, it could be used as a form of currency. In dire times, it could be used to keep the family economically afloat.

A model putting on red earrings and a neckpiece inspired by the Samburu culture.

A model putting on red earrings and a neckpiece inspired by the Samburu culture. PHOTO | COURTESY

Secondly, jewellery was often used to communicate status. Certain stones or craftsmanship were reserved for the chiefs or royalty of the community to highlight their position in society. It was also used to indicate marital status; such as in Maasai and Samburu communities. Additionally, they were used for physical and spiritual protection. Amulets would give positive energy to the wearer, while talismans would block any evil meant for the wearer.

In the last few years there has been a fascination and appreciation for all things African – in music, film and fashion. Maasai culture is recognised far and wide and for a long time has been the easiest identifier for people from Kenya.

However, with 44 tribes in Kenya, there are a lot of undiscovered pieces from other communities. Aside from the traditional beads, there are emerging artists who are using recyclable materials to create unique jewellery. The artists are not only creative but conscious about their craft.

Neema Walove who designs jewellery.

Neema Walove who designs jewellery. Her chockers stand out and they represent sisterhood and friendship. PHOTO | COURTESY

NEEMA WALOVE

1. Tell us about yourself and what sparked your interest to get into fashion specifically jewellery making.

I'm a fashion artiste. I am truly passionate about creativity, mentorship and sharing the process. I have always known that I'm a creative, but my fashion interest got sparked in high school during my last art project. I did a dress that sparked my interest then eventually went to fashion school at Mcensal school of Fashion. I work towards trying different things within the fashion industry so I chose jewellery to explore how creative I can be and to explore what can be done uniquely.

2. You design jewellery but your standout pieces are the chokers. These chokers represent a celebration of sisterhood and friendship. Why did you feel compelled to attach meaning to your pieces?

For me it was important to attach meaning to the pieces. Friendships, relationships with your mother, friends, workmates, sisters and cousins are something every woman has to navigate and they are amazing once understood and intentional communication happens. Our pieces are to be used as gifts to anyone who purchases them as tokens of appreciation that you can adorn others or yourself with to feel cared for and appreciated.

Models showcase Neema Walove's chockers.

Models showcase Neema Walove's chockers. PHOTO | COURTESY

3. What plans or hopes do you have for Walove by Design?

As of now we currently have a new collection we are launching and we are looking forward to presenting our new designs. We are looking forward to a lot of collaborations with other companies and individuals and more importantly seeing people impacted by the knowledge we present on our social media platforms. I also look forward to how we can keep exploring our creativity through different projects and finding new ways to keep providing mentorship.

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