Rusted fence is now Madiba memories

2014-05-12 00:00

CAPE TOWN — She describes her jewellery as “wearable artifacts”.

Charmaine Taylor, a graphic designer from Cape Town, has converted into glittering jewellery the once rusted wire gate from the fence that surrounded Block D at the Maximum security prison on Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela was jailed.

“The gate was on its way to the rubbish heap. The metal was totally worn from the harsh weather on the island and had to be replaced,” said Taylor from her studio in the Cape Town.

Taylor and Chris Swift from the Robben Island Art Company and Trust (Riact) saved the gate in 2009 when it was removed from the island.

“I took parts of the gate and started converting it into jewellery. I use the raw metal and keep the dents and cuts in the design, because it is for me like the wounds of our country and its people. I then plate the wire in silver or gold, as one does with baby shoes,” she said.

It is the first time that Taylor, who trained as a graphic artist, has made jewellery. “It takes me up to nine weeks to finish a piece, but the process protects the original wire inside the armband or the ring or the necklace. The wire will never rust. It is as if one carries a piece of history for ever with you,” she said.

She named the different pieces after various challenges that South Africa’s democracy had overcome in the last 20 years. This includes the justice armband, amnesty necklace and the mercy earrings.

She said more than eight in 10 sales were to South Africans and last year, when Madiba died, all her pieces sold out within a day or two.

Prices range from R2 500 to R8 700.

“I donate 10% of this to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Harvest of Hope, an oganisation that creates sustainable jobs,” she said. She says she has enough wire left to make her wearable artifacts for another two years.

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