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Inspiration: The Natives of New Guinea

July 30, 2009

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For many cultures, jewelry is more than mere accessory.

It is used to display power or status in a tribe, to emphasize one’s manhood or womanhood, to communicate one’s availability to prospective partners, or to honor a deity or spirit. Jewelry and ornaments serve as unspoken communication between the wearer and society, and its importance is known throughout the world.

I have been researching jewelry around the world, including societies in Asia, Africa and South America. The diversity of jewelry, and their significances, are astounding to me. It has given me a different perspective to how I approach my own designs, and raised a lot of questions:

  • What am I attempting to communicate?
  • How would others perceive these pieces?
  • What reasons would someone buy my accessories, and could these reasons extend beyond beauty? Could it be to convey a certain societal status or personality, or to attract lovers like a lot of African and Asian jewelry is supposed to do?

It really helps to think about these questions.

One book that was especially inspiring, thought-provoking and breathtaking was one entitled “Man As Art: New Guinea,” which contained photographs by Malcolm Kirk.

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Papua New Guinea is a small island near Australia. The native aesthetic pictured in this book is jarring, vibrant and bold, and artistically, I immediately felt a connection. In my own way, I would like my jewelry to be bold and jarring, yet minimalistic and accessible to the “everday” consumer.

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It is amazing to think that the “everyday” person in Papua New Guinea (at least before Western colonialism) would be accustomed to this style. Like any culture, their reasons for their style of dress is only known in totality amongst themselves. Any outsider like myself may never really “get it”. Still, one cannot help but be fascinated.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 30, 2009 8:29 pm

    Fantastic!

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