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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Monday, 9 August 2010

Dress To Express: Proudly African Accessories

I have a serious addiction to earrings.  Some women need to put on some sort of makeup to be able to get out of the house.  Some need to comb their hair.  For me, I need to put on my jewelry.  My watch, my rings and earrings and I am good to go or I feel naked.  And the moment I get home I have to take them off because I feel like I need to shed the weight of the world outside.  Shakalala-ed hair can be concealed under a hat or a bandana and quite frankly I love sleep too much so only give enough room for showering and dressing.  Extra fiddling on a daily basis is too much for me.  When I was a kid I would sleep with my braids tied so when I woke up for school in the morning all I had to do was brush the top.  I know, I should be ashamed.  I am not. It was cold at boarding school, I don't function well under 25 degrees Celcuis. And my mother was not around he he he ;}...

I however, do believe you should dress to express.  And for me, the best way to keep in touch with my African-ness is through jewelry, particularly earrings.  As LOLZ said recently when we were donning African outfits for my graduation that sometimes we Afropolitans can rock the African too much. Chitenge bag, necklace, earrings can be overkill, I admit.  But I like to rock my earrings, if nothing else, especially seeing as for some reason people back home tend to shun these items, thinking they are are only for tourists at the market and would rather adorn themselves with (better) Western accessories.  That is evidence of colonisation of the mind I think.  If beads and wood were good enough for my ancestors, they are good enough for me.  If we do not support our local artisans and our culture in turn, who will?!  My OLDEST FRIEND commented that my earring style exposes my chongololo-ness (meaning centi/milipede and also refers to kids who go abroad to boarding school).  Perhaps my need to connect with my African-ness has something to do with it.  So I make a concerted effort to make sure that my earring diversity includes solid African representation as it grows. 

I also like the fact that I can get beautiful earrings for a $1-2 and necklaces for $5-6 after bargaining and I get compliments on them, with people believing they are worth so much more. And lovely friends who have gotten me accessories from Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa as far as I know. This is in keeping with my dress code:

Fashion is in the now and ephemeral but style is priceless and eternal.

I have also found a way to get pretty cheap $5-6 earrings from Tar-jay, many of which look like they were made at home. They could have been, although they most probably were made in India or China.I was able to get shell earrings for £1 from Primani that look like they are from home.  I recently bought a pair of yellow shell earrings from Santa Barbara and saw the same green shell earrings I put together myself from Dubai ready-made in the shop! (The shells had a eye added to them already so only needed earring hooks which are very easy to add so I really didn't do much).    Shell earrings are an easy way to get the "exotic" natural "ethnic" look from afar, grrr to those words grrrr, which also leads people to believe that they are from home (apart from the fact that I come from a completely landlocked country is besides the point :}). And I think this is the main deterrent for people who are susceptible to inquiries and observations using "words that should be banned" when they dress a certain way.  This is why for the longest time I could not wear animal print anything -  too much for me to try and wear normally without the stigma of the "tribal" and/ or the skanky.  Now I can do a splash with my leather snake skin flats and a coupla earrings with leopard and zebra-stripes.  I am proud of my transcendence of the stereotype in an acceptable fashion he he he...

OXFORD SHIRT came up with this awesome way of creating easy access/ viewing of your collection for quick selection and matching with outfit purposes.  A great use for the excess cloth pieces from African outfits that every African woman possesses and never knows what to do with because they are too small or too big to do anything practical with.  However, you DO NOT put your expensive/family heirloom/ sentimental/ if-it-were-stolen-you'd-have-a-coronary jewelry on display. Nothing up on my wall was more than $10 so even though I am greatly attached to all my jewelry, I can get over the loss as I have many a time when I have lost an earring while out and about (why is it that you only ever lose ONE?!). This is when you go to Claire's and get a pack of those plastic earring backs to curb the problem.  And you stop living in London because coats and the wind repeatedly collude to dislodge earrings.

N.B. This only works in America, where they are allergic to building with brick and use something called dry wall that is soft enough to be able to push pins into in a haphazard manner to form a pretty earring wall.  Which is great until you live in LA and feel frikking earthquake tremors every month that shake you awake in the middle of the night until you get used to them and start sleeping through them and only then notice in the daytime. Which means you are now set up to die either by the flimsiness of your abode and/ or the fact that can sleep through stuff like that. But at least you get pretty decoration out of functional wall use.

I had to take a picture before taking this down as I sojourn back to the motherland.  So proud he he he...

And here is a picture of the new earrings that didn't make it to the display wall above, but will definitely be up there when I am able to create a new one. I have never seen yellow shells before I am still giddy about this find!

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