Have you guys heard of Legacy Collection jewellery & art? It’s quite an incredible story, because it’s made from the original prison fence from Robben Island and with each beautiful item, they’re continuing to create awareness of the incredible story of our country’s freedom, along with giving back to sustainable employment in SA.
Now the story of how Legacy Collection came about goes back to 2009 when Cape Town based artist, Chris Swift, started using discarded material to create art as a comment on environmental & social issues. Chris became very focused on discarded materials, looking at new ways to breathe life into what was regarded as waste, and on an educational visit to Robben Island, he spotted all the historical fencing lying around after new fencing had been erected for the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela. Recognising the significance of the fence for the role it played in our history, he coordinated to rescue the fence, took ownership of it and arranged for transport, delivery & storage here in Cape Town. Soon after he formed the Robben Island Arts Company and Trust (RIACT) with the goal to ensure that the fencing would be allowed to come full circle in a way as one of the elements that kept the likes of Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada & Steve Biko captive, to something that could help enable the under-priviledged to escape their personal prisons of poverty & circumstance.
Charmaine Taylor, a proud South African & the lady behind Legacy Collection, is an official distributor of this precious prison fencing and has been granted rights to create art, as well as exclusive rights to create jewellery, by RIACT. Charmaine believes that art is a universal language and that the story of Robben Island is one that everyone can love and relate to. Charmaine, who is a designer and owner of a marketing firm, met the founders of RIACT in 2009, and a few years later in 2013 her shared dream of creating something beautiful and positive from the rescued prison fence became a reality when she was granted the right to design the artwork & jewellery now known as Legacy Collection.
Charmaine has to go through a very careful process of checking the fence to identify parts that are still strong enough to be used. She then cuts & creates each piece completely by hand, resulting in beautifully bespoke items that though they follow standard designs, look different in the end because of the different characteristics of the various parts of the fence. The production process also includes expert laser welding and a lengthy sealing process before being covered in 18 carat gold or sterling silver, and each piece has been named after something that South Africa has gone through as a nation: Release, Free Will, Rights, Grace, Mercy, Liberty, Justice and Democracy. Charmaine also donates a % of profits to both the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Abalimi Bezekhaya (which translates to “We are the farmers”), an organisation which teaches organic farming in the townships of Cape Town.
I recently sat down with Charmaine in her studio in Gardens and got to take a closer look at these incredible pieces which really blew me away. I love that it’s a way of keeping our story alive and also items that can be passed down from generation to generation with love…
Let’s take a look at some pictures, shall we:Each item also comes with a certificate of authenticity and a unique serial number, so you know what you’re getting is the real deal. Also because there’s only a set amount of fence, once it’s done, it’s done, making these items even more special.
This year SA of course celebrated 20 years of being a democracy and to commemorate this amazing achievement, Charmaine is creating a limited editor range of framed artwork and jewellery pieces which will be sold worldwide. She’s also gathered quite a lot of interest both locally and abroad. Even actor Sean Penn recently received his piece of Robben Island history.
Here’s an interview which was featured on Eyewitness news:
You can also keep up with latest news & happenings by checking out the Legacy Colletion Press page here.
Here in Cape Town you can purchase Legacy Collection jewellery from the Platandia Boutique in the Cape Grace Hotel,Charmaine is also launching an online store very soon (but I’ll do an update here once it is live), or you can contact her directly for any order enquiries or even to make a booking to see the collection in person – just drop her an email on:email@example.com
I want to say a big thank you to Charmaine for letting me invade her space and for sharing the amazing Legacy Collection story with me. I really love what it stands for and I think it’s a beautiful example of how we as South African’s are able to create something positive and new, even though our country has been through so much.