The African Contemporary Jewellery Association (ACJA) is hosted by the University of Johannesburg: Jewellery Design and Manufacture department in partnership with the Contemporary Jewellery Awards and Tinsel Gallery. It is the first platform of its kind in Africa, provides a space for showcasing, conversation and the development of discourse around the unique African variant of art or contemporary jewellery design. The bi-annual forum engages key academics and stakeholders in a conversation on pertinent themes related to the field.
This website is an online repository that can be used as a basis for scholarly and commercial research. The online platform will allow for ongoing debate and commentary around relevant issues in the field. Another aim is to keep abreast of the current status of this specialised field, in order to guide the decisions of the educational project and the industry at large. Lastly, the forum aims to provide a space for the development of a community of practitioners.
Our annual seminars create a space for reflection, generating solutions and re-imaging the industry. Over the last two years, ACJA has focused on establishing the position of the Jewellery Design field as a thriving industry within the South African design economy as well as this unexplored or underexplored domain hidden in plain sight. The focus of our first colloquium in 2017, was to establish The Status Quo – and what contemporary Jewellery may mean in the south African context. Speakers ranged from members of the broader Jewellery industry members and academics to established local practitioners such as Liz Loubser and Beverley Price. In 2018, we had the privilege of hosting international craft historian Kevin Murray who provided us with a much-needed overview of Jewellery as social objects, in particular in the global South.
UJ Department of Jewellery Design and Manufacture
Currently, 80% of South African jewellery is imported – of which generally the designs are appropriated from historical European ‘canons’. Also, the inevitable rise of the machines is creating a rift in terms of the viability of transferring jewellery crafting skills in its traditional sense. In addition to this, numerous recessions have had devastating effects on the luxury goods sectors. Subsequently, the size of the industry has reduced from approximately 3000 jewellers nationally, to merely 800. Against this backdrop, the UJ FADA Jewellery Design and Manufacture Department has identified that a differentiated model of education is required to generate diverse opportunities for our graduates towards a more dynamic and resilient industry.
At present, the jewellery design landscape is not geared towards the harnessing of entrepreneurial thinking. As a result, many of our students are forced into retail and manufacturing careers, which in turn maintains the status quo of inherited design canons. This is counterproductive – as it has led to the lack of transformation in terms of leadership, the position of creative and novel design, as well as the development of a South African design identity.
Based on these realities, UJ FADA Jewellery Design and Manufacture Department has restructured the Diploma programme to embrace what is considered a challenge in the industry at large. To this end, we have developed a) a rigorous design curriculum (instituted since 2009) and b) pertinent elements of jewellery entrepreneurship (flagship content created during 2017). These include the re-curriculation of the Design Management module framework, the introduction of a Retail focused Learning Unit (culminating in the 300 Art Ornaments exhibition), and the infusing of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable best practices throughout the Jewellery Practice module. Preparing our students to embrace the technological advancements and challenges of the 4th industrial revolution, is at the core of our vision. Therefore, we continue to endeavour to deliver core and advanced skills in CAD/M (Computer Aided Design and Manufacture) as well as relevant mass production methods, which provide our graduates with comprehensive yet specialised proficiencies that can set them up as innovative leaders within the struggling industry. The new direction aims to maximise commercialisation possibilities and economic viability through excellence in design.
The aim of UJ FADA Jewellery Department is to be the leading jewellery design department nationally and on the continent, by providing jewellery design programmes that are transformative in society and leads the industry.