Thursday, March 12, 2009

Introducing the Amara Collection

I'm finally ready to show off my newest line! I'm very excited about this one-- I've been working on these for over a month now. First, a little about its reason for being.

As you may know, I have a small connection to East Africa-- in grad school, I had a minor in African Studies and in my linguistic work, specialized in African languages, especially Swahili (ambacho ninajitahidi kutopoteza sasa). I was lucky to be able to study Swahili in Tanzania for a couple of months in 2003. What I've learned has enriched me in all sorts of ways, including in my work as an artist. I've always kept in mind that I'd like to give back when I find the right opportunity.

Recently I've heard a couple of stories on NPR about the toll of the conflict in the Congo on the women and girls there-- it's been hard on everyone, but particularly horrific is the way that rape has been used-- for the first time documented, the rebels have been using it as a weapon (as opposed to a mere byproduct) of war. I won't go into the details-- you can read some here--suffice it to say that it leaves women and by extension entire villages and regions physically and emotionally ruined.
One hospital working to help these women with their surgeries, physical rehabilitation, and counseling is Panzi Hospital of Bukavu. I decided that I'd like to find a way to donate to them to support their work. I discovered that the way to help them is through the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a Canadian organization that relies on regular folks-- not corporate donations-- to fund a number of initiatives that are in turn conceived of and run by locals (not Western 'experts', who have helped enough already, thank you very much). They're all-around excellent, I can't say enough good things about them.

The line of jewelry I've created for this purpose is inspired by African fashion and design--
if you've ever seen photos of East African women, one thing you probably noticed is the way they mix and match their clothing. Two or three brightly colored kangas (wraps) each with different colors and patterns, a different colored t-shirt on too. To celebrate this, my new line has a wonderful mix-and-match aesthetic with bright colors, repeating geometric motifs, and a batik look. Actually, it's funny about the batik paper-- I developed a technique for making designs on paper that looked a lot like batik but did not involve wax-- then later learned that the technique that I had 'developed' myself was also a very standard process used for handmade African batik textiles. That made me very happy to hear! As they say, great minds....
Anyway, I call it the Amara Collection. 'Amara' is Swahili meaning 'urgent business', 'assistance', 'aid'. These beads feature my batik papers with my original designs. They're accented with hammered sterling silver flourishes, and can be converted into either earrings or pendants.
Best of all, they're mix-and match! I've been asked several times in the past year whether I offer mix-and-match earrings. Now the answer is finally YES! Mix shapes, patterns, or colors (or all three if you're really bold) for a completely custom set. You can even get an earring trio-- one more earring gives you three different pairs.

So far the Amara pieces are available in three colors (mocha, moss, and sun), three patterns (fern, spiral, and wave), and 4 shapes in 3 sizes. (If you do the math on that, you'll see why it took me so long to get a good initial selection made-- 3 x 3 x 4 x 3= 108). Mocha is pictured here, and you can see both the fern and spiral patterns in the first picture. More photos of the other colors and patterns coming soon!

$1 per piece (thus $2 per pair of earrings) sold will be donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to support Panzi Hospital.

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