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African Jewelry Designers Bask in London V&A Limelight

A blockbuster exhibition on African fashion at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum has dedicated an entire section to African jewelry design and for good reason. The talent on the continent is outstanding, and according to the show’s curator, their creations go so far as to challenge traditional notions of what jewelry is. The exhibition has works by Ami Doshi Shah, of Kenya, including her necklace of brass, sisal and salt. And K’tsobe, a Rwandan designer, has created a copper, silver and brass necklace that blends her culture with mokume gane, a Japanese metalwork. Many designers are turning to collaboration to expand outside their area. For Mulli of Jiamini, her current debut collection with Dylanlex of Los Angeles has taught her “how I can blend beadwork with metals”. Kenya and South Africa are the jewellery hubs for homegrown talent, says Pichulik: South Africa “mainly because of access to certain types of stones and maybe finer stones [such as diamonds]”, while Kenya’s importance is based on its heritage of Maasai beading and brasswork. Africa’s jewellers are, nevertheless, ambitious. Kpolo plans to open a factory in Ivory Coast, either in Grand-Bassam or Bingerville near Abidjan, within two years.