Saturday, April 25, 2009


Famous for its arid climate and spectacular free roaming wildlife Africa is also home to Kenyan jewelry designer, Nasimiyu Wekesa. I am particularly touched by what inspires Wekesa's creative process. When she speaks of it, her expressive words echoe with passion.

Wekesa moved to the U.S. in 1994 and her lovely string bead creations stem from powerful cultural influences. In Kenya, grandmothers collect beads and then pass them on to the younger women as they enter different phases of their lives like adulthood and marriage.

Many women cherish the beads and keep them throughout their lifetime, often asking for their beads to be buried with them at death. Wekesa has said that beads are ". . . a language rich in beauty and tradition, a language that tells the story of trade with foreigners, vast migrations, and vanished empires."

The beads Wekesa collects are made from recycled bottles, stone, shells, brass, bronze, glass, bone, and ceramic. To link the beads, she uses string made from recycled car tires because of its strength and the experience is a devout one.

"The way I do my beads is like mediating, it's a spiritual thing. You know I set up every bead and they talk to me, they tell me where they want to be. So some beads don't go here, it's not a right place. I enjoy doing what I am doing. When I sit down and do this, I look at the time and it is 12 a.m. and I forgot to eat, it's like spirit."

Wekesa donates 10% of the proceeds of sales of her bead creations to Born to Aid, a foundation she established to help African children suffering with AIDS.
Photo 1 (top left): Wekesa's bead designs on display at 2009's New York's Couture Fashion Week
Photo 2 (bottom right): Model wearing Wekesa's designs during runway show at 2009's New York Couture Fashion Week
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