Post Colonialism Reflected Through Jewelry

Post Colonialism Reflected Through Jewelry

Post-Colonialism Reflected through Jewelry and Other Cultural Symbols

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Colonialism was horrible stain on international relations, and witnessed the exploitation of entire cultures for foreign goods. The term now refers not only to the actual colonization of regions in Africa and elsewhere, but also the entire system of oppression that still impacts many of these regions even in the modern day. In the post-colonial period, cultural identities still are conflicted with remaining elements of colonial oppression.

Colonial influences can be expressed in the luxury items a culture praises, such as jewelry. In this regard, “these cultural artifacts represent a composite kaleidoscope of unique historical significance that transcends the temporal boundaries of not only the individual race but all of mankind” (Ghoshray, 2007, 742). Cultural images reflect the underlying messages of oppression and colonial domination that still defines the struggle for superiority in former colonial colonies. There is the notable example of the Kohinoor, or the “mountain of light” in Persian (Ghoshray, 2007). It is a massive diamond, weighing 186 cts, that has come to be a major symbol for the oppression experienced by British colonies under the period of colonialism. The diamond had belonged to Duleep Singh, the ten-year-old king who was coerced into giving up his crown, authority, and lands to the British in 1849 (Ghoshray, 2007). He later gave the massive diamond to the Queen of England as part of the requirements of the Treaty of Lahore. Here, the research suggests that “history, therefore, leaves no doubt that the Kohinoor was not a generous gift, but rather a spoil of war handed over by a boy king to his conqueror, Queen Elizabeth” (Ghoshray, 2007, 751). The Kohinoor was put into the royal crown of England, where it remains even to this day. The diamond itself is actually quite dull compared to other diamonds, yet it seems to still be a highlight and piece of honor to the English because it is so representative of their majority status in the international community. It is merely a status symbol, illustrating the strength of their conquest over foreign lands.

Unfortunately, the images of colonialism seemed to still be engrained within the global culture, and is thus continuing to negative impact regional identities and thus fueling the conflict that persists within the post-colonial period. The stereotypes and biases are still being expressed today, through underlying messages within popular culture, international business, and politics. Here, the research presents a notable example of the Land Rover ad. This is more specifically the Himba advertisement which ran in late 2000 (Van Eeden, 2006). The ad was a South American advertisement that ran within the continent of Africa itself. It was heavily criticized internationally because of its racist undertones that were continually associated with the continuation of colonial attitudes being played out in a modern Africa. The ad features a strong white male and a much weaker, native African woman who represents the conquered colonial subject, even centuries after colonialism was supposed to have ended. According to the research, “the Himba woman symbolizes the colonized subject, who is represented as the embodiment of primitive Otherness to offset the glamour, sophistication and mobility of the Freelander” (Van Eeden, 2006, 345). The ad blatantly expressed an underlying message of the white male as conquering Africa. It invokes the image of the white man and his exciting adventure as he conquers the mysterious African grasslands (Van Eeden, 2006). As such, it is reminiscent of the same ideology that drove Europeans into Africa during the period of colonialism in the first place. Therefore, it presents a clear image of a commoditized continent and reinstates the white man as the superior being within the dynamic environment of a wild foreign land. This continues the conflict between “binary oppositions,” where foreign exploitation of regional lands is still fighting to remain dominant over more localized controls and representations (Van Eeden, 2006). It is a prime example of how there is still tension within colonial identities being played out within a more modern, post-colonial environment.

Thus struggle can once again be represented with jewelry as a prime focus, as this analysis had done earlier with the Koh I Noor. The modern correlation of diamonds and oppression can be linked to the ongoing struggle in Africa, where African people and lands are being exploited in order to produce what are known as blood diamonds or conflict diamonds. These are diamonds that are illegally exported into the international market in order to raise money and fuel local conflicts, where rebels and corrupt politicians were exploiting African laborers for selfish gains in local politics (Chabal & Birmingham, 2002). These diamonds were often being exported into Western nations, and there has been a huge international scandal involving the De Beers diamond company and its potential to knowingly buy and sell conflict diamonds to unknowing Western consumers. According to the research, “by the year 2000 so much blood money had come to be involved in the sale of Angola’s diamonds that the United Nations attempted to impose penalties on nations which facilitated the diamonds-for weapons trade” (Chabal & Birmingham, 2002, 182). The prevalence of these diamonds on Western markets and the association with Western companies continues to show how cultural images can help fuel the continuing conflict between old colonial rivals.

Appendix A

(Busby Jewelry, 2012)

Appendix B

(Busby Jewelry 2012)

Appendix C

(Busby Jewelry 2012)


Busby Jewelry, 2012. Koh I Noor and British colonialism. Busby Jewelry, Web.

Chabal, Patrick & Birmingham, David, 2002. A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africa. Indiana University Press.

Ghoshray, Saby, 2007. Repatriation of the Kohinoor diamond: Expanding the legal paradigm for cultural heritage. Fordham International Law Journal, 31(741), 741-780.

Van Eeden, Jeanne, 2006. Land Rover and colonial-style adventure. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 8(3), 343-369.

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