Here’s the fifth interview from the NOI 9 group, Malaika Najem.
It’s so inspiring to see that jewellery is not always only about what’s beautiful. It can also be about what’s wrong in this world or it can give us hope that maybe if we tried, we could make it a little better.
We could, right?
Name: Malaika Najem
Born: 14/08/1989 in Malaga, Spain (nationality: dad is Lebanese and my mom is half French and half
Lives and works in: Beirut, Libanon
Contemporarty™: Tell us how you discovered your passion for contemporary jewellery.
Malaika: Well, to be honest when I graduated from high school I was looking for jewelry schools in the UK and then decided to look at Italy. I never knew there were many different types off jewelry. When I came across Alchimia’s web site, I read it and fell in love with the pieces that I saw and the philosophy of the school and knew that was what I really wanted deep inside. To me, it was perfect; it was a way of expressing myself artistically and emotionally through a piece of Jewelry.
C: Who or what inspires you?
M: Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to go into the arts and especially into jewelry! It’s something I always used to do as a kid… My presents always used to be beads and I would sit around and make things and invent new designs and would sell them to my friends; thinking like a business woman at 12 :).
This passion grew and I wanted to learn how to use metal and make everything myself; to be able to express myself and try out new things… Most of my inspiration for using my hands comes from my roots… my mom is a painter and I grew up in West Africa surrounded by local artisans and watching them sculpt or paint or make things with their hands with little equipment was what intrigued me and persuaded me in going to this direction.
C: How do you start creating a piece? By drawing, working directly with the material or do you have another approach?
M: Most of the time I start by just using the material itself and playing with it and trying it out in many different ways… But I also usually pick a theme that I work around. Then I research the materials that fit in with my theme and that express what I am trying to convey. Last comes the creation of the piece itself. It’s a whole process of thinking and researching about how one could express this feeling (of the theme chosen) without being too literal.
C: What attracts you to the materials you use?
M: Personally, I am attracted to neutral-colored materials and hard ones. I love to have this challenge with the materials I use; to feel as if I’m fighting with it! I work a lot with silver, ebony wood, iron and Shibuichi.
C: Which piece is the most representative of your work? Give us some information on the making process.
M: I think the piece that represents me the most is “A long way gone”. It’s a necklace that is part of my Child Soldier collection… It’s a piece that was inspired by the story of a child soldier and book I read that was called A long way Gone and dedicated this special piece to the story. The theme of Child Soldiers is very close to my heart. It’s something I hope to be able to help in the future and continue sending a message out to people. A message showing them that in our society and today’s world such horrors still exist in third world countries, where children are taken as war objects, to fight. They are forced to kill and are manipulated or brainwashed into committing these horrors…
The piece itself is made of pink fabric that was hand-stitched into forming a necklace. The fabric represents the child; the pink is the innocence, the color one would refer to as a baby pink, something soft and innocent. On this fabric are sewn many guns (AKA 47’s, pistols) and grenades that were hand cut in many sizes and in different poor rough materials such as aluminum, iron, shibuichi, brass…. When the piece is warn, one can feel a weight around the neck and when you walk the piece giggles and calls for attention in a way. This is the message I was trying to give. Make people be curious enough to come and look closely at the piece and imagine the story behind.
C: What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
M: I would have to say the saw blade and the drill machine to make holes… I’m known for making holes 🙂
C: What project are you working on now?
M: Right now I’m working on a few projects at the same time… I just finished a new collection called “the adventure of change” and I am preparing my second collection for Starch (which is an ONG founded by Tala Hajjar and Rabih Kairouz to help promote and support young Lebanese designers). I am also working on some pieces for an exhibition I will be having with a group at the Marzee Gallery.
C: Contemporary jewellery is…
M: This is always a hard one! To me contemporary jewelry is a piece of art, a mini sculpture that one can carry around and wear on the body. It is a personal attachment one can have when buying a piece.
These are usually unique pieces that have a meaning behind them, an expression that one creates with the materials used.
Its a way of sending out a message to the public but making at the same time a statement because you wear the piece, and to wear a piece you have to feel confident and support the piece you are wearing.
Thank you Malaika for the interview and for sharing with us your dream of one day living in a world where innocence will not be sacrificed anymore.
Update (06.02.2012): Pictures were courtesy of the artist.