Three years ago I saw Sharing the Rough at AGS Conclave in New Orleans. Nine weeks later I was on my first trip with Roger and Ginger Dery to experience artisanal mining in East Africa in person. The entire experience had a life-changing impact on me from the inside out. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at the Marangu Hotel in the foothills of Kilimanjaro near the border of Tanzania and Kenya on my third trip to the region. I’ve been compelled to pursue my own dreams with pure passion and conviction just as the men, women, and children I’ve met in the mining communities pursue theirs. That passion, that dream I’ve had, is to design my own line of jewelry. I have now completed my first collection, but as I was just getting started, I, along with the rest of the people who knew him, mourned the passing of Gichugu Okeno. I would never have had the opportunity to know him, without Orin Mazzoni’s film Sharing the Rough. I honor these four individuals, who I consider the catalyst for change, in the world and in my life, with this pair of earrings.
In order to raise money for Okeno’s family, Roger auctioned colored stones from he acquired from East Africa. A friend and colleague bought them and gave me the opportunity to design a pair of earrings with the intention to give the profit after sale to Okeno’s widow, Esther, and her family.
I call them, “We Must Fly on Two Wings” after my favorite quote of Okeno’s in the film. The colors reflect the African landscape I have come to love, the red earth, greenery, and blue sky and mountains. A strong departure from my current collection’s organic aesthetic, you can see the angst of loss in the sharpness of the lines and dark color of the metal, but also the message of hope and movement we have of continuing Okeno’s vision of two worlds coming together to build a better future through education.