DIARY OF AFRICAN HERITAGE

Aluminium Adorned

Turning aluminium into jewellery is a lost art of blacksmiths

In Summary

• Glorious jewellery created from battered old cooking pots

Fabulous incised neckrings with designs on both sides produced by the Kamba of Kenya
Fabulous incised neckrings with designs on both sides produced by the Kamba of Kenya
Image: JOEL LIPTON

'Aluminum Adorned' is a glorious book published by African Tribal Art Gallery in the Netherlands.

Aluminum has been used for adornment throughout Africa but especially in East Africa, where cooking pots (sufurias) brought in by the British colonials were plentiful in “dukas” (shops) in remote areas.

Melted down and cast in moulds similar to “lost wax” casting in West Africa, old cooking pots produced Pokot elder’s nose plugs. Gabra hand-hammered beads and earrings were leaf-shaped and incised with a hot nail.

Turkana blacksmiths and I produced an entire collection for Banana Republic stores in the US, using totally traditional methods.

New cooking pots were traded for old cooking pots in villages throughout Kenya to get enough for the order. The old pots were then flown up to the deserts of Turkana by plane because the roads had washed out.

From the book Black Beauty Through the Ages by Alan Donovan.

Alan Donovan’s latest book, An American in Africa: 50 Years Exploring African Heritage and the Legacy of Racism in America, is now available for sale at Text Book Center, Prestige Book Store, Book Stop, and the Nairobi Serena Hotel

A Borana elder wears a “kalacha” ornament made from an aluminum cooking pot. It signifies that he has at least one circumcised son
A Borana elder wears a “kalacha” ornament made from an aluminum cooking pot. It signifies that he has at least one circumcised son
Image: COURTESY
Banana Republic catalogue shows African Heritage jewellery created from melting cooking pots
Banana Republic catalogue shows African Heritage jewellery created from melting cooking pots
Image: COURTESY
Gabra woman wears hand-beaten aluminum beads
Gabra woman wears hand-beaten aluminum beads
Image: DAVID COLSON