Saturday, July 21, 2012

White King Black Death - statement necklace

It's Belgium's national day today...


I don't usually document the pieces I make... thought that for once I would...

A couple of days ago, I was browsing youtube, looking for something to watch (well I listen more than I watch) while making stuff (the said stuff is jewelry for a coming show)... I wanted something about the great plague... so I did a search with the key words "black death"... one of the first things to show up was a documentary called "White King, Red Rubber, Black Death" ... I checked it and when I saw it was about Leopold II and what happened in Congo, I decided to watch it...
I heard things about that time but did not know much... not really the kind of things they'd teach you in school... well not here anyway... (a bit like the mutinies that happened in the trenches during WWI or for those who live in the US like the Ludlow massacre)...
5 to 15 millions people died in Congo between 1885 (when Leopold acquired the land for his personal use) and 1908 (when Congo was given to the Belgian state) ... more died after...and more are still dying because of the aftermath of colonialism ...
So I was appalled, disgusted... I don't even know if I'll ever set foot again in the African museum in Tervuren...
And yesterday, while I was taking my bath (told you, ideas strike anywhere) I saw a neckpiece I could make to tell that story...

So before going to bed, I gathered the materials I would need... an old piece of ivory, a chess king, ceramic hands I made, copper wire (not an innocent choice... ) and of course a piece of rubber...
And today, I made what I saw in my head...

 I riveted the plaque with sterling rivets...
Under the king, a piece of rock that I drilled and painted a rusty red... Stanley was nicknamed Bula Matari by the Congolese people... it means "breaker of rocks"...

The following video can be quite shocking for some...



Here's an update... I think it's done now...

8 comments:

Gayle said...

It's a beautiful and thought provoking piece. After watching the video the hands are what stand out to me.

Mo Crow said...

a perfect response to a deeply shocking video & what it means to be humane...

Juliette Williams said...

This piece is breathtaking.

stregata said...

Your piece is absolutely stunning - in a good way. The video is also stunning - I am going to need time to get over it...

elsie said...

steph, a little too shaky to watch the video today but your necklace..? as always I covet your beautiful jewelry for it's power, thoughtfulness and beauty!

Still Waters Studio said...

You are becoming quite a story teller, with your art as well as your words.
It is so wonderful to make people think and try to make the world a better place.

alek said...

i think leopolds last little 'succes' was not that he gave the congo to the belgian government, but that he sold it to them, thus the belgian people paid for his legacy, i saw that documentary about it, and though we become so immune to attrocity, there is always one more stunner round the corner of what we call humanity and associate with goodness,

i think all your work is stunning steph, and if i wasnt stealing time all over the place i would be commenting more, and sending something also

Stephanie said...

Steph,
Scrolling through the blog here is always a treat and I really enjoyed your description of this amazing piece. It's fascinating to understand how each and every element is so thoughtfully put together...I enjoy the history and research that goes into your processes.

x...x