Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It is an ambitious endeavor for sure but our drive and adrenaline push us to take on a trek across the Sahara Desert to Timbuktu (yes, it really exists).

Our point of departure is Mali, Africa and the upcoming days will undoubtedly involve blinding sandstorms, an occasional desert lake, and a scorpion or two. Africa is also the home of featured jewelry designer Oumar Cissé.

Whether imported from Europe or locally produced; whether glass or clay; beads and beaded jewelry are an integral part of African culture.

For centuries, beads have been used as a form of currency in trade and have been a popular source of personal embellishment. Among the first recorded African bead-making industries was located in Nigeria during the 1800s.

The beautiful detailing of Cisse's jewelry reflects the painstaking aspects of this time-honored craft. The careful selection of a myriad of complementary beads is paramount. There can be as many as 10 to 20 strands of beads in a single necklace. Bead forms range from colored glass to ostrich eggshells to cowrie shells and each is steeped in rich history.

Cissé learned this craft as a young boy and much like Kenyan designer Nasimiyu Wekesa, he strongly believes in the beads' ability to tell their storied pasts to a prospective wearer. "A long time ago the beads were used as money," he explains. "All the jewelry we make with the beads mean something, they tell a story."

Working with unbraided and braided leather cords, Cissé creates gorgeous, varied jewelry pieces using multiple beads following a single color scheme or linking together different yet complementary beads possessing slightly different colors and structures. In 2000, he established his company Farafina Tigne, located in Sevaré, which means `African Reality'.

The store holds a wide array of inventory from pendants to bracelets to earrings and necklaces in all its traditional splendor.

Photo 1 (top right): Blue Moon Trade Bracelet
Photo 2 (bottom left): Antique Nara Bead Necklace
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