10 Jun 2014
Fencing jewellery? - Robben Island's barriers turned into ornaments
Posted by Super User

It seems that time truly does heal all wounds. According to recent reports, the fencing which had previously surrounded one of South Africa's most notorious prisons at Robben Island is now being used to create bespoke jewellery. 

For South Africans, Robben Island is a stark reminder of the cruelty that many individuals experienced during the height of Apartheid. In fact, one of the world's most iconic personalities, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned here. It would take nearly 15 years for the metal fencing surrounded Robben Island to be removed following the abolishment of Apartheid in 1994. Following this scrapping process, however, Charmaine Taylor, a creative genius and practising artist,  made quick work of the plentiful supply of metal found here and is now selling gold and silver-coated fencing as part of a collection of jewellery that serves as both a sombre reminder of South Africa's past and an optimistic vision of the future potential of the country. 

These new accessories have turned the heads of individuals from all corners of the globe, many of whom remember the final days of Apartheid and the eventual release of Mandela. Although the metal and razor-coated coils of the Robben Island fence was headed for scrap, Chris Swift, a fellow South African artist, intervened before this artefact was lost forever and began using pieces of the fencing in his shows. It was these exhibitions which initially inspired Charmaine to explore the decorative potential of these products. 

The Legacy Collection, as it is being called, currently contains 160 pieces of jewellery, including a variety of unique pendants. The journey has not been easy, however. Crafting the metal into the desired shapes and forms has been a painful and time-intensive process for Charmaine, who describes her work as “...a labour of love. I say the pieces are like my children.”

Although the long-term significance of these items is all but assured given the legacy of their material, it will be interesting to observe the level of commercial success that Charmaine receives for her efforts. Regardless of financial gain, however, Charmaine has already realized a stunning achievement, transforming a symbol of cruelty and oppression into one of beauty, style and grace.