“Good as Gold” was originally featured at the Smithsonian in 2018. Amanda M. Maples, the museum’s curator of African art and the exhibit, said that although she’s been a part of the project since 2012, she wanted to expand the exhibit to North Carolina.
To do so, Maples added five more full fashion ensembles, completed by practicing contemporary female artists, as well as an interactive station where visitors can view jewelry on themselves. The exhibit also implements the use of QR codes to include reproductions of works that could not be installed because of COVID-19.
Molly Trask-Price, the exhibition designer on this project, said she wanted to not only showcase the jewelry, but also give visitors an experience while walking through the exhibit.
“We wanted it to feel sort of like a jewelry box and that the pieces were tiny and precious,” Trask-Price said. “So we made the room really dark and highlighted the pieces really brightly.”
Maples hopes that when people visit the exhibit, they will see that although jewelry is more of a male-dominated art form, it’s driven by women.
“Gold jewelry in Senegal is made by men — almost exclusively made by men — but this show is not about men, it’s about women,” Maples said. “It’s about empowering women and how gold jewelry is used in such a way that gives power and respect and status to women.”
A main theme of the exhibit focuses on the Senegalese concept of sañse, a Wolof word for dressing up or looking and feeling good. The exhibit explores how women may use a piece of gold jewelry to build a fashion ensemble.
“Sañse is not just about beauty, it’s not just about wearing a pretty piece of clothing,” Maples said. “It’s this moral upstanding quality as well, showing that beauty comes from the inside, and you have to help your community and help other women.”
Trask-Price hopes that when visitors walk through the exhibition, they will take the time to view and appreciate each object.
“I hope that people go in and see it, and I hope that all the pieces are individually special. Hopefully, they come in, and each piece stands out just as much as the next,” Trask-Price said.