Thursday, February 4, 2010

Beyond African Print: Fulani Earrings

[photos - google + siris]

While several out-of-Africa or Africa-inspired brands are content with interpreting and re-interpreting African Print [nothing wrong with that], several others go a step further to incorporate other authentically African elements that are perhaps less obvious. Take Fulani earrings or kwottenai, for instance. They're handcrafted in Mali and are typically worn by Fulani women who are said to place a great emphasis on physical appearance and wear these "elaborate" gold [and sometimes brass] earrings to turn attention in their direction. A few facts, according to The Bowers Museum:

o o o

"The amount of jewelry worn by a woman depends on her age, status and where she lives"

The earrings are made from "pounded gold and wrapped...with red yarn...over time gold is added to the earrings increasing their size and value; the increase signifies the individual's and family's accumulated wealth"

"Each earring can weigh more than half a pound" 

"A woman usually acquires her her marriage as a gift from her husband or when her mother dies."

o o o

Clearly, these earrings play both clearly-defined cultural and symbolic roles. We wonder if folks who wear them know or care about their historical origins. Should this matter? You decide. Nonetheless, the inspired interpretations we've seen on the runway and in collections have been considerably tamer - well, smaller and lighter mostly, but they still pay homage to Fulani women in their own way:

[click to enlarge]

Most recently, we spotted these earrings... part of Korto Momolu's collection for Dillard's and immediately recognized the Fulani influence. Evidently, Africa can and continues to inspire beyond African print.

Do you own a pair?


Photos from collage:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG i am from Mali and i love these earrings because my Grand mother is fulani and she owns many of them . The real ones are made of Golds( yes real gold).