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Crafting Identification – Artwork Jewellery Discussion board

Up to date jewellery apply in South Africa is experiencing a revival, as artists draw inspiration from the nation’s wealthy pure, cultural, social, and political landscapes. South Africa, sometimes called the “Rainbow Nation” because of its numerous racial and ethnic teams, celebrates its cultural selection in all types of artwork. Not too long ago, efforts have been made to deal with the restricted publicity South African modern jewellery artists face as they attempt to ascertain their distinctive fashion within the post-apartheid period. This text explores key points of how South African modern jewelers have efficiently crafted this distinct design id.

Erich Frey, brooch/pendant
Erich Frey, brooch/pendant, circa Nineteen Sixties or Nineteen Seventies, 18-karat gold, amber beads, picture: Paul Mrkusic, picture courtesy of The South African Vintage, Artwork & Design Affiliation

Origins of South African Up to date Jewellery
To know the present method to modern jewellery in South Africa, it’s essential to contemplate its historic growth. Earlier than the Nineteen Seventies, there was restricted documentation[1] obtainable relating to the apply of latest jewellery in South Africa. Nonetheless, it’s noteworthy that the inception of latest jewellery in South Africa was largely initiated by expert immigrants. These goldsmiths, primarily from nations like Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, the UK and Austria, arrived in South Africa in the course of the Nineteen Fifties to hunt journey and set up their jewellery workshops.[2] Most of those workshops catered to the industrial jewellery business, which had been well-established in South Africa for the reason that 1900s, pushed by the nation’s gold, platinum, diamond, and treasured and semi-precious stone reserves. A few of these South African jewellery corporations embrace Charles Greig (established in 1899), A Sidersky & Son (established in 1902), and Jack Friedman (established in 1933).[3]

Eone de Wet wearing some of her creations
Eone de Moist sporting a few of her creations, picture courtesy of Fred van Staden

Experimental works in varied supplies began showing in South Africa in the course of the late twentieth century. These included works from the immigrant goldsmiths resembling Erich Frey, Else Wongtschowski, Dieter Dill, Kurt Jobst, Egon Guenther, Eone de Moist, Mauro Pagliari, Margaret Richardson, Maia Holm, and Frida Blumenberg.[4]

Maia Holm, brooch/pendant
Maia Holm, brooch/pendant, Nineteen Seventies, silver, picture: Denver Hendricks, courtesy of Strauss & Co. The work reveals a robust modernist affect via its use of line.

The early Nineteen Seventies marked a big interval within the historical past of latest jewellery in South Africa and will be known as its “golden age,” albeit a quick one. This was primarily the results of the institution in 1973 of the Goldsmiths Guild of South Africa, in Johannesburg, by a gaggle of South African goldsmiths, led by Peter Cullman. Notably, all of the founders possessed intensive coaching and {qualifications} obtained from prestigious abroad establishments, resembling Pforzheim, in Germany.[5]

The founding members of the Goldsmith Guild of South Africa
The founding members of the Goldsmith Guild of South Africa. (Left to proper) Peter Cullmann, Hartmut Jäger, Ilse Jäger, Kurt Donau, Liz Bezuidenhout-Kratz, Ewald Kratz, and Jochen Kessel, picture courtesy of Fred van Staden

The target of the guild was to advertise South African modern jewellery via nationwide and worldwide exhibitions, to boost consciousness of latest jewellery apply in South Africa, and to foster the change of data relating to modern designs and methods utilized on this discipline.[6] Regardless of its preliminary success and bold mission, the guild encountered challenges within the late Nineteen Eighties that finally led to its discontinuation. The first causes for this decline have been an absence of presidency assist and the prevailing political instability throughout that interval. This instability caused points resembling rises in theft and violent crimes, prompting a number of guild members to to migrate, additional contributing to the group’s lack of momentum.[7]

Most of the guild members developed coaching packages to deal with the necessity for extra expert jewelers and to stimulate the expansion of the jewellery business. Non-public and tertiary establishments contributed to a rise in regionally made jewellery items, in addition to the emergence of latest jewellery designs. Presently, South Africa boasts seven tertiary establishments providing jewellery coaching programs:

  • Durban College of Know-how
  • Central College of Know-how (providing multi-skilled {qualifications} in jewellery)
  • Tshwane College of Know-how
  • College of Johannesburg
  • College of Stellenbosch
  • Cape Peninsula College of Know-how
  • Ruth Prowse Faculty of Artwork
Carine Terreblanche, Big-Boned Wishbone
Carine Terreblanche, Large-Boned Wishbone, 2019, brooch, wooden, silver, 3 5/16 x 3/4 x 4 7/8 inches (86 x 20 x 125 mm), picture: artist. Terreblanche is the senior lecturer within the Artistic Jewelry and Metallic Division of the Visible Arts Division at Stellenbosch College.

As well as, quite a few Additional Schooling and Coaching schools, beneficiation initiatives that search to advertise the creation of employment and diversification of the financial system, and incubators have all emerged as precious alternate options to universities for jewellery expertise growth and coaching throughout the nation.

Marchand van Tonder, Untitled
Marchand van Tonder, Untitled, 2015, pendant, oxidized silver, 18-karat yellow gold, coral, gold-bearing ore, picture: Sarah de Pina

A lot of right now’s South African modern jewelers are merchandise of the nation’s tertiary coaching establishments. The primary native era of South African modern jewelers, most of whom graduated in the course of the Nineteen Eighties, embrace Errico Cassar, Verna Jooste, Liz Loubser, Kitty Schneider, Marchand van Tonder, Chris de Beer, Carine Terreblanche, Beverley Value, John Skotnes, and Nanette Veldsman. This group of artists started to, maybe subconsciously, shift away from a predominantly Eurocentric aesthetic of their work. Subsequently, they are often seen because the pioneers who launched into a journey to develop a extra distinctive South African design id, focusing (although not solely) on translating native cultural motifs, naturalistic motifs, conventional crafts, private narratives, and social feedback of their work. A few of them—Terreblanche, Veldsman, and de Beer, for instance—went on to themselves educate.

Examples of safari jewelry
Examples of safari jewellery displaying the literal interpretations of cultural and wildlife motifs, picture courtesy of Fred van Staden

Cultural Motifs
From as early because the Nineteen Fifties, South African jewelers utilized varied motifs, primarily derived from cave work, from the indigenous tribes referred to as the Khoi and the San. These motifs have been interpreted from a Eurocentric modernist method to create the primary identifiably South African jewellery. This kind of jewellery turned referred to as safari jewellery, and items showcased a really literal interpretation of the inspiration.[8] Nonetheless, this kind of jewellery was meant extra for vacationers desirous to take house a memento of their South African expertise.

Beverley Price, Mapungubwe Re-mined
Beverley Value, Mapungubwe Re-mined, 2022, neckpiece, pure gold, 18-karat gold, picture: Des Tak, courtesy of www.designindaba.com

Immediately, South African modern jewellery continues to include cultural motifs. As an example, one in every of South Africa’s main modern artists, Beverley Value, subtly integrates textures like chevrons and dots in her neckpiece, Mapungubwe Re-mined. These parts function delicate references to the scarification patterns seen on the our bodies of BaLemba girls, who have been a part of the unique tradition found within the preliminary excavation website of Mapungubwe.[9]

Khanya Mthethwa, Echoes of the Past
Khanya Mthethwa, Echoes of the Previous, 2023, varied rings, gold-plated silver, mannequin: artist, picture: tomsaycheez

In distinction, Khanya Mthethwa takes a extra private method to deciphering South African cultural motifs, utilizing the picture of a cow in her newest works.[10] Within the assortment Echoes of the Previous, Mthethwa seeks to confront the consequences of colonialism by utilizing symbolic parts like cow skulls to defy erasure and to have fun the position of the feminine determine. Mthethwa’s inventive imaginative and prescient facilities on the reclamation and celebration of indigenous narratives, achieved by mixing her Zulu heritage with historic Greek symbolism, drawing inspiration from Greek gods and goddesses whose statues have been traditionally vital types of cultural documentation. This reinterpretation provides rise to a recent narrative whereas remaining rooted in the identical cultural context.

Marlene de Beer, Thicker than Water
Marlene de Beer, Thicker than Water, 2017, set up, porcelain and purple beads, picture: artist

Naturalistic Motifs
Native modern jewellery artists have integrated varied botanical and wildlife themes for the reason that Nineteen Fifties, drawing inspiration and supplies from the wealthy pure choices of South Africa. This pattern continues right now. Nonetheless, the way in which these motifs are expressed has developed, typically taking up metaphorical interpretations. As an example, Marlene de Beer makes use of porcelain thorn tree branches in her neckpieces, titled Thicker than Water, In Illness and in Well being, and Till Loss of life Us Do Half. The thorny branches symbolize points of household and married life.

Liz Loubser, Euphorbia Tirucalli
Liz Loubser, Euphorbia Tirucalli, 2022, brooch, sterling silver, mannequin paint, 4 ¾ x 1 ⅛ inches (120 x 30 mm), picture: Sarah de Pina

One other instance of botanical affect will be seen within the work of Liz Loubser, who meticulously reproduces the indigenous hearth sticks plant (Euphorbia tirucalli) as steel brooches. Loubser’s motivation stems from her fascination with biomimicry, and he or she makes use of her ardour for vegetation and handcrafted jewellery to discover these ideas. She explains, “I attempted to repeat the plant precisely, and it turned a really intimate means of actually attending to know each the plant and my materials.” Consequently, indigenous flora turns into an integral element of exploration, with particular jewellery methods rigorously chosen to realize a practical illustration of the plant.

Crafts look like the paradigm South African modern jewellery is most carefully related to when it comes to the methods and supplies used. Within the preliminary years following the tip of apartheid, many modern jewelers, very like the early immigrant goldsmiths, drew inspiration from indigenous crafts to form the elusive “South African” id of their creations. Nonetheless, within the current day, indigenous crafts function some extent of reference and are reinterpreted alongside different motifs and private experiences.

Samantha Vincent, Gathered
Samantha Vincent, Gathered, 2022, neckpiece, platinum, glass seed beads, nylon, picture: artist

Sam Vincent’s neckpiece, titled Gathered, serves for example of South African crafts redefined inside modern jewellery. Conventional Zulu beadwork, which typically communicates id and social standing, was integrated into the design. Vincent utilized this craft to interpret the theme of a contest, #Hope, and explains that hope can “be ‘gathered’ from the previous, current, and future, and is an important idea that ensures that means in our lives.” Vincent additionally highlights the concept of connections occurring via communication, thereby highlighting commonalities.

Vincent’s intention displays a particular method by substituting conventional Zulu bead motifs with PC motherboard patterns. Via this, Vincent demonstrates how crafts will be reinterpreted in modern jewellery when the validity, that means, and properties of the supplies are explored and redefined. (Vincent’s college lecturers have been Chris and Marlene de Beer).

Eric Loubser, First World Problems
Eric Loubser, First World Issues (entrance), 2020, brooch, wooden, ceramic, pearl, platinum, silver, plastic discovered objects, paint, images: Sarah de Pina

Private Narratives and Social Feedback
Any type of political commentary and social criticism was censored in the course of the apartheid period. With South Africa’s new democracy, artists now have the liberty to query varied points of the state. Within the brooch titled First World Issues, Eric Loubser feedback on the problems confronted in South Africa and Africa in comparison with developed nations. The brooch is concerning the Kongolese Nkisi figures, carved picket statuettes that include highly effective substances within the middle, into which iron nails are pushed to launch that non secular energy/safety.[11] The brooch symbolizes the impression of colonialism, with European objects inserted into the wooden reflecting the query of whether or not Africa could be higher off with out European colonization.

Eric Loubser, First World Problems
Eric Loubser, First World Issues (again), 2020, brooch, wooden, ceramic, pearl, platinum, silver, plastic discovered objects, paint, images: Sarah de Pina

The polluted pond on the brooch’s again represents how adopting Western life has led to issues like air pollution, prompting consideration of how Africa would possibly differ with out colonization. (Loubser was taught by Carine Terreblanche on the College of Stellenbosch.)

Chris de Beer, Brooches for the Week
Chris de Beer, Brooches for the Week, 2023, cardboard from cereal packing containers, plastic from milk bottles, cotton thread, metal security pins, metallic foil, picture: artist

Artists may also now extra freely specific social commentary via their work. Chris de Beer displays on his spirituality and questions the dear supplies related to varied non secular artifacts in his work titled Brooches for the Week. The non secular artifacts are constructed from mundane supplies resembling cardboard from cereal packing containers, plastic from milk bottles, cotton thread, metal security pins, and metallic foil.

Chris de Beer, Brooches for the Week
Chris de Beer, Brooches for the Week (element), 2023, cardboard from cereal packing containers, plastic from milk bottles, cotton thread, metal security pins, metallic foil, picture: artist

Whereas making a residing as a recent jeweler will be difficult, the abundance of native inspiration, supplies, and methods has impressed the work of a small group of South African jewellery artists who’re carving a reputation for themselves regionally and internationally. As our worldwide contemporaries are conscious, that is no straightforward feat. Neither is creating a singular id in modern jewellery that’s synonymous with post-apartheid South Africa. Regardless of a number of initiatives aimed toward growing publicity for South African modern jewelers, resembling occasions just like the Up to date Jewelry Discussion board, held on the College of Johannesburg in 2017 and 2018, and the South African Up to date Jewelry Awards, hosted in 2018 and 2019, the modern jewellery motion in South Africa misplaced its momentum after the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, there at the moment are renewed efforts to revive this motion with the hope that the artists of the Rainbow Nation will depart an enduring mark on this planet of latest jewellery that shines as brightly because the rainbow that symbolizes our numerous and resilient nation. 

Songezo Baleni, neckpiece
Songezo Baleni, neckpiece, 2010, 18-karat yellow gold, silver, picture: artist

© 2023 Artwork Jewellery Discussion board. All rights reserved. Content material will not be reproduced in entire or partially with out permission. For reprint permission, contact data (at) artjewelryforum (dot) org


[1] The first supply of in-depth dialogue on modern South African jewellery is at present restricted to articles written by Professor Fred van Staden. Whereas van Staden has made efforts to doc the origins of this apply and make clear distinguished South African jewellery artists from the mid-twentieth century in varied articles, there stays a notable absence within the discourse relating to present-day South African modern jewellery artists and the intent of their work. One doable clarification for this hole could possibly be the shortage of native authors specializing on this self-discipline and the shortage of platforms devoted to selling South African modern jewellery artists and their works.

[2] Fred van Staden, “An Overview of Famous Gold- and Silversmiths in South Africa within the Nineteen Fifties,” South African Journal of Cultural Historical past 28, no. 1 (2014): 90–113.

[3] Fred van Staden, “Legacies of Immigrant Gold- and Silversmiths throughout Early and Mid-Twentieth Century South Africa,” South African Journal of Cultural Research 27, no. 1 (2013): 139–163.

[4] Fred van Staden, “Erich Frey and His Associates: A Distinctive Contribution to South African Jewelry Design and Its Goldsmith Custom,” South African Journal of Cultural Historical past 25, no. 1 (2011): 148–179.

[5] Fred van Staden, “Notes on the Hallmarking of Twentieth Century South African Treasured Metallic Artefacts,” South African Journal of Cultural Historical past 31, no. 1 (2017): 82–105.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] van Staden, “Legacies of Immigrant Gold- and Silversmiths.”

[9] The Mapungubwe Kingdom existed in Southern Africa from across the eleventh century to the thirteenth century. Immediately, Mapungubwe is taken into account an vital archaeological website and a UNESCO World Heritage Website. The dominion is thought for its gold artefacts, most notably a golden rhinoceros which is believed to have held vital symbolic and probably non secular significance. Different gold ornaments, jewellery, and beads have been additionally excavated on the website. This was thought of one of many earliest examples of historic South African craftsmanship. Sian Tiley-Nel, Mapungubwe Remembered (Johannesburg: Chris van Rensburg Publications, 2011).

[10] Within the Zulu tradition, a cow not solely symbolizes materials wealth but in addition cultural id, social cohesion, and a deep connection to their traditions and spirituality. Patricia Davison, “Visible Narratives of the Anglo-Zulu Warfare: Cattle Horns Engraved by an Unknown African Artist,” Southern African Humanities 28, no. 1 (2016): 85.

[11] Ezio Bassani, “Kongo Nail Fetishes from the Chiloango River Space,” African Arts 10, no. 3 (1977): 36–40.


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