Artist Profile


Beverley Price
I live and work in Johannesburg. I trained as a jeweller in Israel and London and completed my post-graduate fine arts studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2002. I exhibited abroad in Germany, the UK and New York, and have served as a curator and public speaker on the topic of jewellery as art in South Africa and in the UK. I have been involved with organizing the annual Jewellery Indaba in Cape Town since its inception.

My particular interest is to stimulate the development of a hybrid style of jewellery that fuses indigenous South African adornment forms with conventional Western jewellery practices. I am also concerned with promoting a jewellery expression that carries a distinctly South African feel.

Some years ago I set a goal for my work: I wanted to make a form of jewellery that conveys value without using precious minerals, like diamonds. To this end I began developing the idea of using foil to frame images, such as those from the magazine Drum and South African product labels, combining the foiled units to make jewellery. My intention with my first necklace was to make a story round the neck – like a silent movie whose movement is governed by the body.

For the past five years or so I have been fortunate to have Phumzile Mazibuko, Violet Molepo and Rachel Mathaele work with me, as well as our newest assistant Sizwe Kheswa, Phumzile’s son whom I have trained in the work of making small jewellery pieces using these framed images.

The piece on the Mandela @ 90 exhibition is entitled – Contemporary Replica of the Xhosa Neckpiece that Nelson Mandela wore to his sentencing (2001) This consists of concentric circles of tiny foiled images of Mandela’s life, chain-mailed into the form of a neck/shoulder adornment piece. The work is lined with pink leather and edged with beads to reference the Xhosa colours of muted blue, pink and white.

When I asked for permission from the Nelson Mandela Foundation to use the images I was referred to the patenting office of the Department of Trade and Industry. I complied with the requirements, such as assisting with educating my assistants’ children and also with the Bailey Archives copyright payment which includes images taken by Jurgen Schaderberg. An image of the work is one of two which were selected and appear in the international ‘Jewellery-art Exhibition in Print’ - called “500 Necklaces”, a book published by Lark Books .

Beverley Price. June 2008.

The human body is the substrate of Price’s art. As a jewellery artist, post-apartheid South Africa provides a fertile context for her work. Her training in London and Israel stressed the parity between the concept or design of a piece, its execution and the appropriacy of the materials used. Consequently she does not subjugate herself to gold and diamonds; rather she is fascinated with the South African capacity for improvisation with materials.
She draws on the South African cultural indigenous resources for their generous scale of the body adornment-objects, such as those of the Xhosa and the Ndebele people. Her artistic position as viewer/voyeuse/deployer of these large forms she considers derived from herself being an ‘other’ amongst many ‘Others’ growing up during apartheid: she is white, Jewish, and a first generation South African.
Price also draws on the historical Mapungubwe ( 900-1300AD) indigenous community whose pre-colonial knowledge of goldsmithing, her gold work suggests, offers some solace and vindication after the political mining/ jewellery history of Southern Africa.
Her work is always about demystifying and popularising jewellery, and manifests as a growing hybridity between the western and indigenous South African jewellery practices. A corollary is her interest in the re-evaluation of the sources of ‘preciousness’ for jewellery. The latter she proposes by locating some of her works in fine art. She piggy-backed on the ‘re-classification’ of indigenous crafted objects (including adornment objects) as art, from the end of the 1980’s by the Wits Art Galleries and then the National Gallery - (SANG). She developed this rationale during her post graduate studies at Wits University in 2000 and 2001.
Price also connects herself with the international jewellery-art movement in Germany, Israel, the US, Australia, still avant-garde by any measure, perhaps because of the powerful, timeless and unchallenged commodification of jewellery. Whereas European jewellery artists do not generally cross medium-boundaries to exhibit, in South Africa of necessity , she does. This has strengthened the position for her international colleagues too as ‘artists whose medium is jewellery’.
Notwithstanding this affiliation, she does engage the multifarious overlaps of jewellery with, for example Craft, Design and indeed the jewellery industry - to her and her trained workers’ benefit. Their foiled icon-image jewellery ranges are well known in and out of South Africa.

The piece shown in this exhibition comprises a concentric chronology of foiled images taken by photographers during the course of Mr. Mandela’s life. The images are joined in chain-mail fashion to form an articulated neckpiece, which is loosely attached to a pink-leather under-layer, and edged with beads, whose colours reference Mr. Mandela’s Xhosa genealogy.
An image of this work is one of two of her works which appear in the international publication “500 Necklaces”.

Beverley Price. June 2008.