Artists of Influence…

SEWIT SIUM

“As a jeweler I’m interested in the animation, the living legacy of objects. When my pieces are worn, they’re activated – that is, their story and felt sense of meaning are brought to life.”

Artisan and educator Sewit Sium has been crafting historically referenced jewelry for over a decade. She is driven by the idea that adornment is not solely a marker of trend or wealth, but also a valuable educational tool, reflective of history, culture, tradition, and indigenous technologies. In many instances, what we choose to wear and how we choose to wear it reflects our ancestral memory, relations, and ongoing story as people.

Sewit Sium jewelry was born to uphold this idea that fashion is language and a powerful form of storytelling. Each hand crafted piece takes us on a journey through history, while embodying a story that is relevant to our lives today. The line includes powerful amulets and talismans that anchor us in the present moment, only to say “Im here but my history walks with me.” 

With an emphasis on visual political statement, Sewit’s mission is to reconnect cultural image and iconography with original context. She draws from a rich diversity of African iconographies and artistic movements from both the continent and its diaspora; each offering unique insights and stories of the world and our place within it. Therefore all designs seek to beautifully honor and celebrate the original peoples that lay claim to them.

“I’ve always been captivated by the intersection of jewelry, education, and grassroots activism. Prior to starting my business, I taught Fashion Politics and Design at various High Schools in NYC, using jewelry as an educational tool, as primary source material (like a text) to teach predominantly Black and Brown youth about their history, about the world. We had powerful conversations about where we came from, where we are now and where we are going.”

“We literally know about the world because of what was engraved and memorialized in jewelry and stone. Jewelry is the oldest form of decorative arts, a phenomenon that was born on the African continent. Without it, we wouldn’t know about ourselves. This is why I’m continuing the legacy of hand-making statement jewelry encoded with this history, culture, sentiment, and love. My hope is that people adorn and become activated and inspired by my work.”

Axum Gold Coin Ring

A large part of what we know of the Ancient Kingdom of Axum, aka Aksum (modern day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia) is engraved in gold and intricate and opulent jewelry. This ancestral knowledge is literally imbued in Axum Gold Coin Ring – in the minting and movement of indigenous currency, which has since been found as far as India. 

Coral Scarab Amulet Ring

The Scarab, a beetle indigenous to Egypt, signifies life, rebirth and regeneration. The ancient god Khepri, Ra as the rising sun, was often portrayed as a scarab beetle or as a scarab beetle-headed man. Khepri renewed the sun every day before rolling it above the horizon, then carried it through the other world after sunset, only to renew it, again, the next day.

All quotes and information are from Sewit Sium’s website, and Shoppe Black’s feature on the artist written by Tony O. Lawson. Images are from Sewit Sium’s website, as well as picuki.

Thanks for reading!

Karyn