Wednesday, April 28, 2010

CAROLYN ROUMEGUERE

The regal beauty of the Château de Chambord is a striking fixture situated within a wooded park in France's Loire Valley.

The beautiful 16th century fortress houses 84 staircases, 365 fireplaces, and 440 rooms.  However, despite its ominous proportions the structure served more as decoration than a safe haven from military attacks. France is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Carolyn Roumeguere.

Warriors of Kenya's Maasai tribe traditionally greet tourists by jumping and singing, and the Maasai women quickly follow partially encircling guests before engaging in dance welcoming guests to join in.

Known for centuries for their spiritual connection to the land, the Maasai are semi-nomadic moving their cattle herds and setting up temporary villages in areas with good rainfall.

With her anthropologist mother and Maasai stepfather, forty-two years ago Roumeguere spent her childhood living in Kenya interacting with the Maasai while threading colorful bead jewelry with the women for hours.

"Under the shade of an acacia tree, I was taught all I know about color, shape, and design by the Maasai women and young girls. They instilled in me a sense of color and balance," she says.

"They instilled a passion for beads and adornment. The Maasai, the raw beauty of African landscapes, and its lovely sunsets inspire me. I transfer this to my jewelry."

By age 15, the future jewelry designer would leave Kenya to attend school in Paris, and she would later embark on a brief modeling career. Her heart and mind, however, remained with the Maasai and at age 20 she returned to her childhood home.

During her time abroad in the early 80s, she collected rocks, seeds and objects keeping them in small boxes. She would later incorporate the eclectic range of materials into the jewelry she would ultimately make with the Maasai, whose way of life was now threatened due to socio-economic and political changes. Roumegeuere worked with the Maasai women to create jewelry pieces to help provide them with a source of income.

Working with gold beads, pearl, bone, stone, natural pink sapphires, East African colonial coins, and 18-karat gold Roumeguere and the Maasai women create items of incredible elegance and beauty many of which are patterned after ceremonial pieces.

The designs remain true to the Maasai culture in their beautifully organic and rustic appearance. The carved wooden beads, crystal-like gemstones, claws, and hammered metal discs provide a sense of the expansive scope of the Maasai's long history; their reverence for the Earth; and strength of community. You also sense the honor Roumeguere has for their culture.

"Everyone has a specific role in African society, and I have found that my husband, Simon, and I can be a bridge between the Maasai community in Kenya and the rest of the world."

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Photo 1 (top right): Pink Sapphire Maasai Choker Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Chandelier Earrings with Enamel Drops and Rough Cut Diamonds
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