The world’s premier museum of art and design, the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London, has appointed Ghanaian-born jeweler Emefa Cole as its inaugural Curator of Diaspora Jewellery. Backed by British jeweler Elizabeth Gage, the nomination comes after the V&A acquired the Vulcan ring from the designer-maker, above, in 2020.
Emefa describes herself as “delighted” by this appointment: “I have always loved the museum and visited it frequently, drawing inspiration from the collection. When I saw the position advertised, it seemed like such an exciting opportunity that I had to apply”. She is now preparing to work alongside prominent curator Clare Phillips, who discovered her work at a craft fair in London in 2019 and later managed the acquisition of her oxidized silver and gold leaf Vulcain ring. the following year, for William and Judith of the museum. Bollinger Gallery.
The appointment represents a further step in the V&A’s efforts to work towards wider representation in its collections and challenge the colonial history of an art and design museum established in 1852, during the reign of Queen Victoria. . “The appointment of Emefa represents huge progress for us in our constant questioning of the collections, to ensure that they retain their relevance for our diverse audiences, while adhering to the standards of excellence for which the museum is rightly famous,” says James Robinson, Curator of Decorative Art and Sculpture at the V&A. “I am extremely excited about the possibilities that Emefa will bring to the museum.”
And these possibilities are enormous. The museum’s 3,500-piece jewelry collection is one of the most comprehensive in the world, tracing the history of jewelry as ornament from ancient times to the present day. Celtic gold rubs shoulders with jewelry that once belonged to Queen Elizabeth I and a Butterfly ring by Glenn Spiro recently donated to the museum by Beyoncé. The museum’s refined hallways have long been walked by generations of art and design students, creators and designers, and its extensive collections attract visitors from around the world. If ever there was a suitable platform for addressing Britain’s colonial past through its cultural institutions, this is it.
“I look forward to exploring opportunities to expand the collection,” says Emefa, “the museum has a clear acquisition procedure that we adhere to, so I will be looking for objects of creative and cultural significance that are relevant to the collection. broader.” In this role, she will lead research, documentation, acquisition and interpretation for the V&A’s jewelry collection, with a focus on the diaspora, which the museum recognizes as an area of development. She will also have the chance to contribute to exhibitions and public engagement projects.
Moving away from traditional notions of curators chosen for their expertise, the museum was keen to hire a specialist who understood the manufacturing process. A regular at Vogue, Vanity Fair and the luxury press, Emefa is known for her sculptural, assertive jewelry that blends an exploration of Earth processes and textures, with elements of personal memory and Ghanaian culture. She is part of a cohort of contemporary black jewelers who have risen to prominence over the past two years, thanks to more inclusive media coverage and events like the Brilliant & Black sales exhibition at Sotheby’s the year latest, which is set to take place in London later this month.
Emefa was born in Ghana in 1979 and moved to London when she was 12 years old. A childhood interest in jewelry and a fascination with local folklore around gold in the earth, inspired her to study goldsmithing and produce her own collections, always with the mythology of the Earth and her generosity. firmly front and center. As an experimental jeweler, she blends traditional and modern techniques, layering metals in her own interpretation of transformational nature.
Her Erosion series honors the Earth as “the mother of hidden treasure” with “erosion as her midwife”, with smooth gold cleaved in half to reveal the texture and gemstones within. Elsewhere, the Dzonu series is its own interpretation of traditional West African beads that convey elements of status and identity, in gemstones and precious metals. In 2021, The Goldsmiths Company acquired their Caldera ring, part of the Vulcan series through which they sought to explore the creation and destruction of volcanoes.
In 2020, she is apprenticed to the personal goldsmith of the King of the Ashanti people in Ghana, a rare honor for an outsider that allows her to enrich her skills and learn from a master. “Nana approaches the work from a philosophical and contemplative perspective. This rare opportunity has ignited the inner flame and I look forward to learning more about Ghanaian culture, especially in regards to the importance of proverbs and the wisdom that they contain, and the importance of ensuring that this unique way of creating is preserved, passed on and celebrated.”
It’s exciting to imagine where such a dynamic jewelry artist will go now. “I’m particularly impressed by the transcendent nature of the objects,” she says. “They are more than an adornment, they are golden wisdom, they contain the history of a people, they are a culture, so they are priceless.” Her own work will no doubt be further nurtured by her new role and closeness to the V&A collections, as she strives to bring others out of the shadows and into the rightful spotlight of one of the most respected design museums in the world.