Jewellery heaven

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m in love with ethnic jewellery. So it was not exactly a hardship for me to attend Alafia gallery (121 Ormond Road, Elwood, Victoria) last night to celebrate the arrival in store of jewellery by Ousmane Macina – a Fulani artisan from Mali whose family has been jewellery makers for generations – thanks to an invitation from the Moral Fairground team.

This is Ousmane, obligingly showing off some of his fabulous earrings, but thanks to my poor photography you can’t really see them so well…sorry Ousmane!!
One of the lovely staff at the gallery was wearing some too…

…and then there’s this photo. This very cool lady was unfortunately not present – I found this picture from a random site .

There weren’t any earrings quite this big at the launch, although the same design is offered in smaller versions in both gold and silver (plus I think you get these little bags in amazing prints to keep them in!).

According to Ousmane, on special occasions the women poke these earrings through the holes in their ears and then wrap lots of red thread around the posts, I think to stop them falling out or maybe just as decoration… you can see what I mean in these photos which are from a book that was at the gallery and which I would love to own (although not as much as I’d love to own the earrings!)… stupidly I did not write down the title of the book!

I am in love with this look but unfortunately my accessories budget does not stretch quite far enough to afford anything from the range at this stage* – and my earlobes would have to stretch too if I were to wear earrings like these!
I started off my jewellery-wearing days vowing to avoid getting my ears pierced, partly because I’m a wuss but also because if they were pierced, I would be tempted to buy lots of earrings. Unfortunately this logic has not got me very far, as despite intact ears, I possess upwards of 80 pairs of clip-ons, including some which cost only $1 and earnt me lots of compliments at the gallery, including from this beautiful lady – of course I immediately complimented her right back, how could I not when she is wearing such a fabulous necklace (again, sorry for the crappy photo!)!

Anyway, back to the gallery… these are some of the other beautiful things that Ousmane and his workshop staff have made.

Pendant heads in silver.

A bangle made from pearls.

A filligree bangle, hair barrettes in wood with inlaid silver, and a great big silver cowrie shell, as cowrie shells were once used as currency in Mali…

All the jewellery was made using traditional techniques which were fascinating to hear about – these latticey earrings were made by wrapping silver around carved bits of wood and then burning the wood until it turns to ash and only the earring is left.

Rather time consuming, but such a beautiful result (although of course I would love them more if they were about 10 times bigger!).

Alafia is really worth a look, there’s some gorgeous stuff there – if you manage to make it past Ousmane’s work check out the galleries at the back and upstairs, with fantastic textiles, homewares and art like these pieces.

*Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that the jewellery was expensive, most things I liked were around the $600 mark, but given the work and materials involved, that’s probably still a bargain!