From the Congo to Paris

Emmanuel Kasongo’s art jewelry

[Editor’s Note: We recently were contacted by HAND/EYE subscriber Abbey Chase who was very impressed by Emmanuel Kasongo’s jewelry. As a result of this article by Annie Waterman, Abbey contacted Emmanuel and invited him to work with friends at the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance. The introduction proved to be successful: Emmanuel’s stunning jewelry will be on display at the HCAA Gallery during Art Basel week. The gallery is hosting a meet and greet with Emmanuel on Friday, December 2nd at 10:00 am at The Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, 225 NE 59th Street, Miami. For more information, please call 305.756.3037 or visit www.haitianarsalliance.org. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these works will support the Haitian Arts Relief Fund.]

Meeting Emmanuel Kasongo this past August was a highlight as he is humble, sweet and talented beyond words. The first time I met him, I couldn’t help but stare at his beautiful beaded necklaces that he wore casually draped around his neck in a multitude of layers and vibrant colors. I’d never seen anything like it…tubular beaded necklaces made with the finest Italian mesh filled with tiny glass beads in a palette of bold colors that take your eyes for a ride. The outer layer of mesh, which is a network of tightly woven wire in colors of black, brown, and taupe is filled with vibrant glass beads in shades of gold, yellow, bright orange, blue and red. His collection resembles sculptural pieces, completely hand crafted and one-of-a-kind. The character of this work striking and it is clear that he is one who is not afraid to push the boundaries of fashion. Emmanuel says, “To be in fashion is not to be fashionable.”
 
At the age of four, Emmanuel Kasongo moved from the Congo to Paris where he began his career in fashion. He worked in this field for more than a decade, living in Paris and Milan, assisting some of top designers including well-known French labels such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Marithe Francois Girbaud, and Charles De Castelbajac. Over time, he found the world of fashion to be a bit “too uniform” and missed working with his hands and creating art. He knew it was time to experiment and take some risks, leading him to start something of his own.
 
Since 2000, Emmanuel has been selling a unique collection, which he finds around the globe, including jewelry, palm fiber handbags, ancient antiques, textiles, and other raw objects. These items are a culmination of his travels to over 80 countries around the world. His line of jewelry was developed just five years ago when he was asked to put a unique spin on a traditional African bag for a Japanese company. As he was looking for new materials to work with, he discovered his new mediums: Italian mesh and glass beads from the Czech Republic. This merge of materials transformed into his own new line of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, which have received an impressive response. Emmanuel stands out due to his sense of experimentation and fearless risk taking. He says that “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” but he certainly isn’t afraid to try.
 
Emmanuel looks toward Africa and the other countries where he has lived for his inspiration. He says, “My work is a combination of so many different things.” It’s a fusion of Africa, Europe, experiences, sights, sounds, and feelings from around the world. Emmanuel is extremely gifted and has been sought after for the way he works with color. This new beaded collection has been a platform for creative expression, soft and harmonious yet vivacious and bold.
 
To purchase please inquire at the Seattle Art Museum as well as Treasure & Bond in SOHO, NY. You can also contact Emmanuel at ethnokase@hotmail.com or visit www.cemakcollection.com

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