Jen Su Chats With SA Legacy Collection’s Charmaine Taylor for Heritage Day Exhibit
BY JEN SU
Mingling with international stars such as Taraji P. Henson and attending Oscars parties and Global Gift Galas with celebrities Eva Longoria and Patsy Palmer, are all in a day’s work for Charmaine Taylor.
The Legacy Collection Founding Artist and CEO gave us the inside scoop on her exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway in the run up to Heritage Day.
JEN: Hi Charmaine! Tell us more about your recent trip to Oslo and your impressions?
CHARMAINE: Hi Jen! This is my second trip to Oslo – it’s a city steeped in history with inspiring art installations. It’s also where Nelson Mandela received his first Nobel Peace Prize.
During my first visit, I was honoured to be invited by the South African Embassy in Norway, to speak on a panel for SA Women’s Day. Our installation for this event was The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword – which featured Nelson Mandela’s prison cell built to exact scale, created out of the Robben Island prison fence for his centennial commemoration.
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I still can’t quite grasp what we accomplished over the weekend. We set up a Robben Island Prison Fence Installation outside the Nobel Peace Center by #ChrisSwift. This is a representation of Nelson Mandelas prison cell built to scale out of the fence that once held him captive. It is part of a @nobelpeaceoslo exhibition called #TellTheWorldAboutUs all about false imprisonment and human rights violations 🕊 And our Legacy Collection Jewellery now stocked at the Nobel Peace Center. What a great accomplishment for South African Art. Did you know South Africa still to date holds the highest Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Special thanks to the team at @nobelpeaceoslo @thoughtleaderglobal and my dear friend @christopherjamesswift for starting me on my journey with this rusted repurposed Fence 🇿🇦🇿🇦🇿🇦#ProudlySouthAfrican #BeTheChange #ThePen #RememberMandela #Mandela100
JEN: Excellent… Please describe the collection that you presented.
CHARMAINE: Since 2015, we’ve been waiting for the perfect time to reconstruct The Pen installation in Oslo, but this time at the Nobel Peace Center. I was honoured to be invited by the organization’s CEO to attend Oslo Culture Night, where all the museums and galleries stay open late and are free to the public. The Pen installation lit up the Oslo skies and saw some super emotional people viewing this exhibition of the material that once held Mandela captive — now outside the Nobel Peace Center where he was awarded the highest honour of being a Peace Laureate in 1993.
JEN: How long will your jewellery be available at the Nobel Peace Center?
CHARMAINE: Legacy Collection will be there on exhibit for the rest of this month, and will continue to be available in stock at the Nobel Peace Center for years to come. South Africa still holds the highest number of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and it’s super special for SA art to be associated with this iconic institution.
JEN: It’s quite a process behind the jewellery, isn’t it?
CHARMAINE: Indeed… the jewellery is created in Cape Town out of the original prison fence from Robben Island, which is actually from a very rusted, dense and gritty material. I always try to preserve the ridges and texture as much as possible and find beauty in the “scars”. Each piece is named in honour of our road to democracy, such as “choice”, “rights”, “peace” and “justice”. Each piece, as it has a unique piece of the Robben Island prison fence, comes with its own serial number and certificate. And in that sense, it all comes together here on Heritage Day.
JEN: How did you start using the Robben Island Prison fence as a material in your designs, and what made you feel drawn to work with it?
CHARMAINE: My friend Chris Swift rescued the original prison fence from Robben Island. And now we both share our display at the Nobel Peace Center – Chris with the Mandela Cell Installation, and my jewellery at the Nobel Peace Center. I was drawn to the symbolism of the once broken, rusted, almost buried and forgotten Robben Island Prison fence, now being repurposed into messages of hope and reconciliation and for us South Africans and the world, never to forget the leaders like our peace prize laureates Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.
JEN: Your jewellery has been seen on many celebs around the world – who are some of your favourites?
CHARMAINE: I’ve been so blessed to have some lovely celebrities enjoying my range such as Sean Penn, Paula Abdul, Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Frances Fisher (Titanic), and Teri Polo (Meet the Parents). In SA, I’ve loved working with stars Jo-Ann Strauss, Roxy Louw, Siv Ngesi, Kahn Morbee of The Parlotones, and Catherine Constantinides.
JEN: Glam events, from the Oscars to London Fashion Week – are very much a part of your life. How did all of these travels inspire your designs?
CHARMAINE: Well, for sure, I’ve been so blessed! I was honoured to speak at the Commonwealth Lifestyle charity event series with UK celeb Patsy Palmer in California and London. We then flew to Edinburgh, where I had the honour of meeting Eva Longoria in benefit of her inspirational charity, the Global Gift Foundation. I met Jussie Smollett when he visited SA, and he graciously invited me onto the set of Empire, while he was directing in Chicago.
JEN: Let us in on your upcoming projects!
CHARMAINE: My jewellery will be on the season premiere of Empire Season 5. So look out for my Africa Rising and Release pendants. Pongracz MCC is featuring me as one of their new female BOLD global ambassadors, and so I’ve been fortunate to be able to collaborate on this project in Norway and Sweden.
Follow Charmaine and the Legacy Collection on Instagram @LegacyCollection ; Twitter @Legacyctn Facebook LegacyCollectionSA.