From jail to jewellery
An ugly prison fence at Robben Island has been transformed into beautiful jewellery items.
It looks like something salvaged from a shipwreck. Rust has gnawed at the slender metal, which now sparkles in silver and gold - an odd colour for something so obviously corroded. But this is exactly where its charm lies for jewellery maker Charmaine Taylor. For this isn't just any piece of scrap metal - it is a piece of Robben Island's heritage, which was saved from the scrap heap.
And now you can wear it.
It all began in 2009 when an artist friend of Taylor's went to Robben Island and saw management replacing the maximum security prison fence, which had deteriorated due to the corrosive sea air.
Taylor saw an opportunity and in 2013 she was granted the rights to create jewellery from the fence. She started by doing framed art, but this wasn't enough.
"I wanted to take it from a wall piece and actually create something that a person could take with them - just a token," she explains.
But the condition of the metal posed a problem as it could snap easily when bent: "The fence is so rusted and so fragile that I had to create something that was solid, so I encased the metal in silver and gold through an electroforming process and created jewellery."
Taylor explains that the character of the metal is an important facet, which she wanted to preserve.
"I wanted to keep the original texture that's underneath it, because I find the beauty in the scars of what this fence has gone through and what it's seen on the island through the weathers and the historical processes. I wanted to keep the original form and that's where I get the inspiration from."
"When you're covered with love, grace and forgiveness you turn from a broken past into something beautiful, and how much more. Isn't this a story of South Africa and what we've been through?" she says.
Taylor has chosen appropriate names for the pieces, which include pendants, bracelets and even cufflinks: "I named most of my pieces about what we went through as a country - so I've made the Free Will Pendant, the Release Pendant, the Rights Pendant - naming each item is like a statement piece."
Every piece is unique and for Taylor "this really represents who we are as a country and how far we've come. We've still got a lot of scars that we bear, but we have got a beautiful story at the end of the day."
The jewellery has already found some traction in the US.
Francesca Eastwood, Clint Eastwood's daughter, has a piece, and Taylor says singer Paula Abdul has been a great supporter. Her dream is to see one of her pieces around the neck of female role models such as Charlize Theron and Michelle Obama, but stresses they are not exclusively aimed at celebrities, but for the everyday man or woman.
"You should be proud to wear it and this is a great story to tell every time you wear it," she says.