African Men’s Jewelry From Antiquity – The African Man in the World of Clothing and Finery


It is a challenge to want to talk about clothing and finery in Africa, from antiquity to today, even in a full day. Both the subject is rich. Many things have been discovered about this over time, but many still remain to be discovered. In particular, the focus of this article is geared towards African men’s jewelry. It seemed necessary to divide the theme into two essential parts. Which are to know :

  • Clothing which concerns only all that the man dresses his body and the various reasons inherent.
  • The ornaments that often complete the clothing and for which it should be understood: jewelry (with a focus on African men’s jewelry), hairstyle, tattoos, etc.

No Man is born fully dressed. Even nowadays, this miracle has not yet occurred! A retrospective look at the history of humanity shows us that it was not so long ago that the revolution that brought our ancestors from nudity to clothing, then clothing to fashion (clothing and finery) itself and, finally, contemporary fashion.

The reason for being a garment is plural and varies greatly according to the cultures and periods of history:

  • Practice (protection)
  • Symbolic (indicate a moral posture)
  • Social (display a status)
African Men's Finery

Young boys Somba (Batamrariba) of Atakora, Natitingou, Benin, shortly before 1960 | Source: National Archive of Nigeria, Ibadan.

The history of clothing is inseparable from its sociology: studying the conditions that contributed to its birth cannot be done without addressing the sociocultural issues of the period.

It is therefore necessary to dissociate the simple original clothes from the first costumes that will succeed them, gradually giving rise to the notion of fashion, of a purely utilitarian role – to protect the human body from bad weather and external aggression, to be able to move easily – the garment evolves by adding immaterial functions: adorned, it becomes adornment. Technical progress and increased trade lead to an acceleration of the pace of transformation from the 16th century. Activity originally very local, because dependent on the natural resources of a territory, clothing and Jewellery manufacturing today is at the heart of economic globalization.

Historical Overview of the Origins of Clothing and Finery/Jewelry in Africa

The first men and long after them, generations and generations of the human species, lived in all nakedness. It is difficult to say exactly where and when Man first dressed. But it certainly appeared to him a necessity to cover himself when he became aware of his humanity. This evolution was made thanks to the development of his cognitive faculties and his ability.

African Men's Jewelry From Antiquity

Source: Institute of African Studies University of Nigeria.

It is safe to say that the first clothes of Man were made of leaves, bark and branches. Then, from the time he went from fisherman-gatherer to hunter-gatherer, his clothing and his ornaments also evolved. With them, his conception of the abstract, the art and the ritual to say nothing of the religious. Because, to look closely, it is the spiritual or religious that has deeply inspired the man that can be called art and fashion. From this moment, clothing and ornaments take into account several functions: social, philosophical, didactic, cultural, religious, etc.

Archaeological discoveries have shown us that 82,000 years ago, in Morocco, humans used shells to make necklaces (an art adornment). This is what revealed to us the excavations of the “Cave of the Pigeons” carried out near the village of Taforalt. They have updated thirteen marine shells that physico-chemical dating techniques have allowed to locate in time. The oldest in this area were the 41 perforated shells of Blombos in South Africa, dating back 75,000 years, as well as some parts of Oued Djebbana in Algeria, but dating was uncertain.

As for the ancient ornaments discovered in Morocco, several specialists have suggested that it is the modern Man (Homo sapiens sapiens) who would have used it, after having collected them at the beach. Due to the fact that they appear stained and worn, deduction was made that they would have been used for a long time as adornment, either hanging in necklaces or in bracelets or stitched on clothing. For a long time, moreover, scientists had thought that it was Homo sapiens who had invented everything, before starting to realize, today, that he did not invent anything, at least not great a thing.

traditional African costume

Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini and President Jacob Zuma in the traditional chef costume. | Source: eburnienews

In a recent article published on an Ivorian newspaper, Frederic Lewino wrote that: “In the genomes of current humans belonging to dozens of populations spread over Asia and Africa, the paleo-geneticist of the museum of the Evelyne Heyer man detects several migrations. The former remain internal to the black continent. A first group of modern humans left Eastern Africa more than 70,000 years ago to join the southern tip of the continent. These are populations whose direct descendants are known as Sanand who live mainly in the Kalahari Desert in Namibia but also found in South Africa and Botswana. And for the eminent South African paleontologist, Christopher Henshilwood, it is the ancestors of the San who would have invented art, jewelry, first bone tools, stone arrowheads and many other technologies.

As much invention that would have been made more than 30 000 years before the European Cro-Magnon . This leads the South African paleontologist to conclude that: “Culture and technology would therefore be African inventions”.

It is difficult to determine with precision the origins of clothing production in Africa. History and archaeological discoveries bring us back to ancient Egypt. Already traces of clothing and adornments well prepared to take us back 2000 years before Christ, at least, and Meroe, north of Sudan with cotton fabric swatches dating from the 5th century.

The goddess Neith is for weaving what the god Thot is for writing in ancient Egypt. Through Egyptian art, we have a full representation of what was men’s jewelry like in the earliest times in Africa, notwithstanding. The skins of animals had indeed succeeded cotton fabrics. Under the twelfth dynasty, 2,000 years BC, which corresponds to the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, schenti and pech were already recognized.

eye of horus ancient egypt

This hairstyle of ancient Egypt is no different from the hairstyles of the same kind that are still found today in Black Africa.

For men, the apron, which is none other than this piece of cloth that is attached to his lap belt to let it hang in front of his thighs, clothing will evolve and diversify with the ingenuity of craftsmen. Over time, the ways of dressing evolved and changed to meet the characteristics of different trades and social classes. And later, a fashion from Ethiopia was widely adopted in Egypt. This is the wearing of a large piece that covers part of the front and back of the body, from below the waist. The clear difference from women’s fashion is that clothes were less transparent. In addition, they covered a good part of the body.

Under the Old Kingdom (about 2,700 to 2,200 BC), the dress was characterized by a short loincloth, which was held at the waist by a strap that could be either cloth or leather. Nothing other than the jewels allowed to differentiate the socio-professional categories. Under the Middle Kingdom (2,033 to 1,786 BC), it evolved into more complex forms, especially the African men’s jewellery and clothing.

In women, the long linen dress has long been the favorite garment. Contrary to what one might think, to emphasize the shape of the body through its garment was commonplace under the Old Kingdom and that, until the Middle Kingdom. She could either cover the breasts or discover them, letting braces pass in the middle. In the New Kingdom (1500 to 1000 BC), it became more transparent and adorned with fancy jewellery (African men’s jewellery in particular).

Ancient Egypt has certainly not invented the oldest garments and ornaments in Africa, but in many areas it remains the reference. And this is simply because it is the oldest African civilization that has survived and reached us. We only need to see the panoply of adornments she has on hold to be convinced. Whether hairstyles or jewellery (earrings, rings, pendants, bracelets), it is in nature that the different reasons have found the origins of their inspiration. Much of the history of Africa has been transmitted through jewellery and other sculptures: to put it simply, through art.

As far back as history goes, men and women made jewellery using animal recovery, such as horns, bones, shells, and then it later evolve with more precious metals and stones. The oldest jewels will be from South Africa – 41 small shells perces would have been found on the site of Blombos. Africa is a rich container of traditional art where one finds particularly refined jewels. Because the focal point of this work is basically about men’s fashion and African men’s jewellery as a scope, I shall have to take a clearer view of the juggling importance of jewellery in typical African fashion.

African Men’s Jewelry

The Jewels Called “Ethnic”

African jewelry are often renamed “ethnic fashion Jewellery” for the simple reason is that they represented and still represent the characteristics and symbols of each ethnic group.

The large number of ethnic groups in Africa contributes to a great diversity of jewels and cultural wealth. They are much more meaningful and symbolic than other jewels. They participate in a tradition and it is a way to convey a story. These ornaments, body decorations and jewellery form a language that reveals their own identities. They can be real works of art, the pieces can be in gold, silver, bronze, precious stones or even made from natural elements such as gazelle horn, bones, eggshells.

The Ethnic Jewel Becomes Fashion

Because the African men’s jewelry are particularly beautiful, Africans have been spotting and using haute couture in our western world. They have become trendy and give a touch of character and exoticism to an urban and modern look. They blend very well with simple outfits and a plain and neutral tone. The complexity of the jewels as well as their refinement will be enough to get dressed. So that the jewel is perfectly highlighted, it is necessary to avoid the conflicts of color and printed matter, but rather to remain in the simplicity for a look much more chic.

Meaning of African Men’s Jewelry

Since the dawn of time for jewelry, African men’s jewelry are used by African men to adorn themselves to show their wealth, their belonging or power. It is in this ancient continent, Africa, that the first traces of humanities were found and also the first jewels.

A rich tradition

The oldest jewelry was discovered in a cave in South Africa. They were small sea shells pierced and mounted in necklace.They are more than 75 000 years old! But this is only the beginning of the jewel that evolved with time, peoples or tribes that are numerous in Africa. Tribal African men’s jewelry has traditionally been made using natural materials such as bones, ivory, seeds, shells, beads, stones or wood.

A Currency of Exchange

In many African civilizations, jewelry has a financial value and is a bargaining chip. The jewels have the role of a “bank” and are exchanged or sold during difficult times. And African men’s jewelry has greater value. To carry one’s fortune is safer and more practical. The nomads of the desert still practice today this system that has proven itself throughout history.

A Jewel and A Belonging


African men's jewelry

“The Arab Conquest of North Africa and the Articles of Trade,” – Journal of African Studies, University of Addis Ababa (AAU) by Kidist Gebreselassie.

Each tribe or even each family makes their own jewelry with a very special symbolism. As with us, the coat of arms was represented on signet rings. African families each have their wardrobe. African men’s jewelry is loaded with symbolism and is often closely related to their beliefs or religions.


During the religious ceremonies or their rites, the tribes adorn themselves with their most beautiful jewels, which can be sometimes very heavy and imposing but they often have a role of protection and other symbolic appeal that is very strong. The diversity of African jewels makes them beautiful, that Westerners particularly appreciate them so much for the way they are refined and finely worked, especially for men’s jewelry.


King Tossoh with Men's African jewelry

The late King Tossoh Gbaguidi XIII of Savalou, Benin | Source: acotonou news


Evolution of Clothing and Ornaments in Africa

One of the tools that has revolutionized the design of clothing and adornment in Africa as well as in the rest of the world is the sewing needle. The oldest hitherto discovered in the world dates back to 61,000 BC and was found in the Sibudu winery in South Africa. It is a needle made with a bone and which did not have any eye yet. The thread that was then made from nerve or gut or raffia was introduced into one of the slits of the bone.

African men dance

Source: The National Museum, Onikan, Nigeria. Founded in 1957

“The Upper Paleolithic was characterized by the emergence of new and complex technologies that helped humans survive in Africa and Europe. These revolutionary tools, including bone needles with eyelets for sewing furs, bone hooks, bone flutes, and ivory figurines carved from mammoth tusks,” reported a study conducted by an international team of experts, including researchers from South Africa, France, Italy, Norway, the United States and Great Britain whose work was published in the “Acts of the Academy National Science Institute.” This study suggested that Upper Paleolithic culture may have roots even farther away, 44,000 years ago, or even 50,000 to 60,000 earlier, and may have determined the first humans to venture farther into Europe.

There are different schools of thought on the evolution of sewing and fashion in Africa. One school of thought known as the Chaser Needle apologists, could only trace the history from the time sewing needles were made from a metallic substance such as copper, iron or bronze. It defines, defines African sewing technology as a “small of tempered and polished steel, one end pointed and the other pierced with a hole (eye) to pass the thread.” Obviously, this did not appear until much later, 18,000 BC and 7,000 BC for copper, iron, or bronze needles. The first attempt at the needle invention was done with bones


From the oldest eyeless needle to the chased needle, this invention, which dates back to the Upper Paleolithic, continues to serve us up to this day. To the point of having durably changed our way of life. Because it gives to man infinite possibilities of work of different materials and even of the body, which in this case of the human body is with the scarifications or tattoos.

The other invention, relatively recent, but which also changed the course of things remains weaving. It is part of one of the Neolithic innovations. When we go back to ancient Egypt, there are many examples of the development of looms. As we know, weaving produces only small pieces. And it is still thanks to the needle that different pieces can be connected to give what can be called a loincloth. Traces of fabric dating back to various periods have been found in West Africa, particularly 9th century Nigeria, 11th century in Mali and crafts items to weave in the 11th century also in Mauritania.

The symbolism of African men’s jewelry

The jewellery is etymologically the art of making jewels, and more broadly ornaments highlighting mainly precious stones, precious stones, ornamental stones and pearls, using frames for the following precious metals: the gold, silver platinum and sometimes palladium. In recent years, some of the very high-end jewellery pieces are even made of titanium.

Functions of men’s jewelry

In addition to its decorative functions , the African men’s jewelry is at the service of many other functions or intentions. These functions are very variable depending on the time and culture, but also according to the beliefs or perceptions of the individual who wears the jewel. It is nevertheless possible to distinguish a few specific functions.

Social function

The object is going to be signifier of the specific social status of the wearer (thus the alliance which means that the bearer is married, the ring of the Fisherman which indicates that his bearer is the Pope). One could also classify the whole tradition of the African jewelry of mourning, for the African men’s jewelry.

Identity function

Most African men’s jewelry signifies the belonging of the wearer to a specific group (whether religious, professional, political, ethnic, sexual or other). Thus, this is the case of the “seal”, gold earring worn by the Companions of the Tour de France which allows the wearer to be recognized by his peers. This function can make it possible to identify the wearer either exclusively by his group or by an enlarged population, depending on whether the codification is more or less widely known.

Magic or religious function

The African men’s jewelry is then amulets, gray-gray, talismans, “therapeutic” objects that protect their wearer or sometimes even “heal”. They fit in their design (color, material, ornamental symbols) as in their port (location on the body, how to wear and remove) in games of specific beliefs that are the pledge (for the wearer or the designer) of their effectiveness.

Utility Function

The African men’s jewelry then plays a specific role in the wearer’s daily life. Under this function, African men’s jewelry can be grouped in the multiple as combs, fasteners of capes, belts, peaks with hats or caps … but also rings-seals, key-rings, chatelaines.

Sentimental function

The African jewelry becomes a vector of the memory, relating to a person, a thing, a place having a particular importance in the life of the wearer. Its port then activates the memory. The jeweler has thus developed a sentimental vocabulary through rebus (+ than yesterday – that tomorrow), intertwined initials, symbolic or allegorical representations (intertwined hands that say the indefectibility of a friendship or a love Faith rings, thought flowers which means how much “we think of you”). The sentimental object can also become a real reliquary that contains a photographer (image of the loved one), a lock of hair, a milk tooth or some crematorial ashes.

Erotic function

African men’s jewelry sometimes emphasizing that part of the body that will attract the attention of the opposite sex by appealing to her senses (vision, hearing, touch) and eroticizing the body.

Of course, the same object can respond to several functions. Moreover, the African men’s jewelry is also a witness of life inscribed in the heart of multiple social rituals (offered during a significant event such as a communion, a marriage, a transition to the majority for example in Western cultures) or more personal. It will always bear the memory of this event whether or not it is worn.

African men’s earrings

Earrings have been worn throughout the world since antiquity, not only in Africa, but all cultures combined. Mostly planted for their aesthetic and seductive function, they have also been symbols of social status. Thus, Mongolian women wore earrings so heavy to assert their status that their lobes were distended or torn. In Buddhism, Prince Sidharta, of noble birth, had the lobes distended (as can be seen on the statues) and when he gave up all wealth, this sign remained a symbol of renunciation. In Buddhism again, they symbolize female karmic and spiritual beauty.

Men’s earrings as a part of the African men’s jewelry originates from sailors. Several meanings were given to them:

– The ring was reserved for the intrepid sailors who had braved the Cape of Good Hope. It preserved them from drowning and shipwrecks, – Its economic value allowed for settlement. It could also symbolize the engagement between the sailor and the Sea.

At the end of the 1960’s that the fighters and bad boys begin to have their left ear pierced. The right ear is popularly interpreted as a sign of homosexuality. Today, it has become a real fashion, and the phenomenon has not stopped gaining power.

African men’s rings

As part of African men’s jewelry, the ring is a symbol of deep attachment and sincere love. Discreet or ostentatious, it exists in all materials, of all shapes, with or without stones, classic, original.

The alliance and the engagement ring

Intimate stories but at the same time secular tradition, to which each generation has brought its meaning. The covenants evoke promise and faithfulness, love and commitment. There is no more symbolic gesture than the exchange of alliances, but how was this tradition born?

This tradition may go back to prehistoric times. One hypothesis is that the man who kidnapped a woman from another tribe wore a bracelet in the sign of the woman’s possession. That’s where our alliance comes from. But nothing could confirm it.

The choice to wear the ring on the left ring finger comes from the Greek doctors, who linked this finger to the heart, so to the feelings.

At the time of the Romans, the ring was offered at the time of the betrothal, a commitment that the promise of marriage would be held. She often represented a seal, with which the wife marked household property.

In the Middle Ages, the rich African men’s opted for a ring set with precious stones, considered as a talisman, supposed to protect the person who wore it against misfortune. It also symbolizes passion or immortality.

It is not known exactly when the engagement ring became the alliance. The transition is probably made gradually. The double or triple rings, which appeared in the Middle Ages, are getting closer to the current alliance. It was two or three rings. During the engagement, each future spouse received one as a symbol of the bond of the promise made. At the wedding, the bridegroom offered her half to his wife, gathered in a single ring to symbolize the union. If there was a third, he was entrusted to a witness of confidence.

Then appear the engraved rings of short religious, spiritual, romantic or tender poems. Then the engraving is replaced by rows of small diamonds or stones.

Finally appears a new type of ring, whose first role is to protect the ring pledge of love. This new ring will be a ring, circle symbol of infinity, set with diamonds, symbols of eternity. Thus did the alliance become an immutable element of the Western marriage tradition. A ring without beginning or end, the symbol of eternity.

The signet ring

The signet ring (or sigillary ring ) is a ring engraved with coats of arms so that it can be used as a seal on wax.

In western Europe, the signet ring is worn by men in the left ring finger, with the alliance; by the women with the little finger of the same hand. If wearing a signet ring is not a guarantee of nobility, not wearing it is no guarantee of commonality: many nobles do not wear it, most often by discretion or refusal to be cataloged as such.

In the times of the knights, the ring was worn on the left ring finger as a sign of distinction among the great so-called medieval families.

The signet ring is imbued with a whole social and cultural symbolism. Indeed, this last would mark the membership to a certain social class, considered superior, and enjoying a hereditary legitimacy. But wearing a signet ring can also reveal a passion for history, for a great time, or a desire to claim an attachment to certain values and family traditions.

African men’s bracelets


A charm bracelet is an African jewelry that carries personal charms – decorative pendants that symbolize different things in the wearer’s life. The history of jewelry goes back to Neolithic times, where people collected unusual stones or pieces of wood and wore them around their arms or necks to protect themselves from ferocious animals, natural disasters and other dangers. The charms thus functioned as amulets.

Source: Omenka Art Gallery, Lagos Nigeria.

The cuff bracelet is a large, stiff bracelet that does not close around the wrist. He evokes the cuff of a shirt forming a sort of fixed wrist, from which his name comes. He tightens his wrist and climbs to the level of the forearm.

The bangle is a bracelet, or rather a ring whose entire circumference is of equal

thickness. The shape of the rings can be round or oval, and even open.

The Garter Bracelet

Very fashionable in the 1860’s, the garter bracelet is a flexible bracelet consisting of a strap and a clasp. It takes its name from the fact that it imitates the latter. It consists of a chain of precious metal, broad and flat, with ornate ends. One end passes in the other, allows to adjust the width of the bracelet and is hanging.

Chain Bracelet

These are soft metal bracelets made of chained links. Small medallions are sometimes attached to these chains.

The Bracelet bracelet or curb

The curb chain is a flat chain with a plate on which can be engraved a name, initials or a pattern. The offer of this jewel can have a special meaning. It is often offered on a particular occasion.

The Weekly Bracelet

In some parts of eastern Nigeria and also in the Northern Africa men wear seven fine bracelets in the same arm: Each bracelet represents a day of the week.

African men’s necklaces

The necklace or the chain accompanied by a pendant is the jewel most worn African men’s jewelry.

Worn by men, women, children in Africa, the pendants are often borrowed memories and strong symbols, jewels that we want to keep close to the heart. This is one of the most used jewelry to wear a symbol in order to affirm community belonging, belief or superstition.

The choker, is placed at the base of the neck, its length is 36 to 40 centimeters.

The long necklace, also called a morning necklace, is a 55cm necklace, which goes down to the chest.

The opera necklace, is a long necklace between 70 and 90 cm.

The long necklace measures more than 90cm, very fashionable in the 30s. It can be rolled up several times around the neck.

The cufflinks

A cufflink is a decorative fastener used to hold the sleeve of a shirt. It is an accessory essentially male. There are all shapes, all colors and they are made with many materials, although the metal predominates largely.

Although they appeared earlier, it is mainly in the nineteenth century cufflinks become common. Before that date, the sleeves were held by ribbons or lace. They were replaced in the 1970’s by the appearance of shirts with buttoned cuffs.

Stylish accessories, they remain today acclaimed in professional circles where a refined outfit is de rigueur, such as the merchant bank, and more generally in ceremonial costumes associated with festive events such as weddings and mundane parties.

It is often considered as part of African men’s jewelry and made or adorned with precious materials such as gold, silver, platinum, mother-of-pearl, and ivory.

The Cameo

The cameo is a technique of engraving, even sculpture in bas-relief. Some are carved on two-layer marine shells, a soft material that is easier to work with and less expensive than the agate and onyx used in the monochrome hard cameos produced by the artisans of African antiquity.

Jewelry and the African men

Today, African men’s jewelry is elegant and current. They emphasize the refinement of the one who wears them, add a sensual and powerful note with very masculine materials.

The rings for men: Indicator of the family situation thanks to the alliance, they are also aesthetic accessories which underline a social position and an assertive character.

Among other things, signet rings can be seen as symbols of character, virility, and willpower in Africa.

The men’s bracelet has become trendy in recent years, be it leather, gold, silver, steel, worked with several materials or set with precious stones. It can be so a very nice engagement gift.

African jewelry, fashion, and its new trends

Man, as he evolved over the centuries, gradually abandoned his first clothes and adornments. From the tradition of producing clothing from tree bark, we went to Africa to that of Kapok tree fibers and finally cotton.

In African traditions, loose cotton was unraveled and flaked. And with both hands, with two stakes put on both sides of the spinner, made the spindle spinning with one hand and the other spraying the thread with calcinated bone powder or kaolin. This tradition of making yarn with a hand-loom made of cleverly entangled wood and used as tools for the weaver, has long been used to make pieces of fabric for sewing clothes.

In the north of the continent and in much of the Sahel, it is fair to note that women also wore garments made from sheep’s wool or camel wool. Testimonies of organizations of the actors of the sector of the textile crafts exist in Tunisia and which go back to the 10th century. In Nigeria, production centers as far north as Kano, In Cameroon, for example, King Njoya of Bamoun and his court elaborated raffia cloth. In the Ashanti Kingdom of Ghana, Koumassi was known for his mastery and production of the famous Kente (fabric made of cotton and silk and composed of bands stitched together to form patterns and figures with bright colors.

The industrial revolution that took place in Europe completely upset the handcrafting of textiles in Africa. Ánd from the 15th century, Europeans frequent the Gulf of Guinea. In the 19th century, the Dutch introduced are still printed fabric called Dutch Wax. Nowadays, these fabrics are also manufactured in factories located on African soil. The development of textiles, which has been accompanied by that of trade between Africa and Europe, has made it possible, in particular, to democratize the loincloth. The loincloth is henceforth no longer the privilege of kings, noble or rich. But it has nevertheless remained a popular sentence in Africa, and particularly in Benin, which says: “There is no loincloth except the woven loincloth, the rest is the only imitation.”

The appearance of different kinds of fabrics and loincloths has made fashion evolve considerably in Africa. It has incorporated elements quite modern, but without losing the soul of the sartorial traditions. One only has to go to the streets of an African capital to convince oneself of it. In this environment, the two Congo stand out with the existence of “Ambiancers and Stylish People Companies.” It can also be remarked very easily, even nowadays, that African fashion oscillates between tradition and modernism.

As in many areas, Africa is still torn between the two. But this evolution has produced renowned African fashion designers as well as major events on the continent. This is the case of events like “Africa International Fashion Week” in Nigeria. This last country is, in my opinion, one of the few to have successfully entered the fashion market. Although it is to be honestly acknowledged that Africa as a whole is lagging far behind in this area.

It is important to highlight the initiative “Vogue Talents for Africa” which was launched in Nigeria, in collaboration with the “Consortium International Business Nigeria Limited” – the organizers of the largest event of research of models and initiators of the ” ECOWAS Fashion Week” and the ” International Fashion Week in Africa” – in partnership with ” Studio 24″ .

Contrary to the evolution that the dress fashion knew, the adornments remained as fixed in the time. African goldsmiths have certainly acquired and mastered new methods of making their jewelry, and equally applies to African men’s jewelry. But they have been more open to new contributions than they have innovated. Moreover, it is to be observed in this area, a strong trend to return to fashion old jewelry including those of ancient Egypt and ancient Africa in general.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, contemporary art has been largely inspired by Negro art. This also applies in the field of jewelry.

Currently, the craft of African jewelry has seen the birth of a new generation of contemporary creators, whether in the field of fashion or sustainable development.

In Western civilization, African jewelry has become very trendy. For many, why they like wearing them is the aesthetic and ethnic side. They just want to be noticed for the beauty and considered a fashionable person.

In the West, the tradition of wearing jewelry comes from far away. It was specially reserved for the dear royal and noble heads who already abused it. Just look at the portraits of great court painters throughout the centuries. Have we ever seen an ordinary man with such adornments? Something tells me you know the answer.

In African civilizations, it was different. If African jewelry has always existed, it could be worn by kings as well as wizards or ordinary people.

They served as talismans whose symbolic function varied according to the country. They were able to drive out evil spirits, bring good luck or reveal things to others.

The meaning of the colors also played an important role. Milk white represented fertility, blood red embodied vitality. The blue of the sky and the black of the storm referred to the deities.

The materials used for their manufacture did not need to be noble. They took everything that came to hand, namely precious or semi-precious stones, metal, feathers, ebony and other wood species. Creativity gives meaning to contemporary African jewelry.

With the growing success of the trade in ethnic handicrafts, the ritual dimension of jewellery has almost disappeared today. The Western world is fascinated by the beauty of these objects, and the African artisans do not manufacture them more than to answer this demand.

Counterfeits, declining quality, looking for yield, all this caused an overproduction. And, paradoxically, traditional know-how is being lost today. Its primary objective has moved far away, allowing the wearer of these “jewels” to live in peace and in harmony with the universe, thanks to these real talismans.

It is by renewing with the ritual symbolism that the connection with European contemporary art will be made. I remain convinced that creativity and originality will give artisans a chance to find a certain authenticity. Personally, I like to think that this craft will evolve towards an African contemporary art which will develop its own language. Well, I get carried away a little, but we have the right to dream.

Today, African jewelry is straddling between tradition and modernity. An example of handcrafted African jewelry is situated in Kazuri workshops established in 1975 in Kenya. Certified by IFAT (The International Fair Trade Association), a fair trade certification, they work to provide jobs for about 300 women in difficulty.

In Kazuri workshops, pearl making is also an African specialty. Made entirely by hand, each pearl is modeled by one of the Kenyan women participating in the Kazuri project.

After having first baked the pearls in an oven, they then cover them with enamel and then iron them in the oven. Finally, they put them on and put them in necklaces, bracelets or earrings.


The communication on the topic of “African Men’s Clothing and Jewellery,” is a vast subject that can not be dealt with in a few hours. Fashion and aesthetics have always been part of the daily life of the African man since the earliest or most remote times. This fashion of clothing was revolutionized in Africa essentially with spinning in a traditional way, and that even before the discovery of the cotton. And despite the delay of Africa in terms of industrialization, the continent is not completely absent from the major international meetings and is always striving to promote itself.

Today, just enter fashion boutiques and jewelry stores around the world to notice that many motifs, models of ancient Egypt in particular and Africa in general are brought up to date. We must not forget that fashion, and especially the African men’s jewelry, is made to be continually reinvented. To this end, Africa has an interest in revisiting its clothes and ornaments, either to update them or to preserve their authenticity, but in any case to no longer remain on the sidelines of the evolution of fashion contemporary at the occasion of the appointments of giving and receiving at the world level. If it does not, creators from other continents will take ownership of all the inventions it has been able to produce, and that legitimately. Because it is an ancient heritage that is common to all of us.



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