Khanya Mthethwa's contribution to Zulu Mien

When I started working with the Rhubhani craft group I had no idea how I was going to add sterling silver to the beaded pieces. I am not a jewelry designer – I’m a craft product developer. Before Zulu Mien I was accustomed to working alongside weavers in KwaZulu Natal – they work with materials such as sisal, ilala plant etc. Beadwork was foreign to me and so was jewelry making. I had a long road of learning ahead of me.

The beaders of the Rhubhani Group had the beading skills and could guide me with their knowledge, but I needed a jeweler to help work out how to combine the beadwork with sterling silver. So I reached out to the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, Jewelry Design and Manufacture (FADA). If I recall correctly the head of the jewelry department may have emailed my plea for help to their database of jewelry design students.

I think out of all the jewelers the email was forwarded to only one contacted me to offer their assistance. It was Khanya Mthethwa – a UJ jewelry design graduate who was completing her internship at the time. Khanya hailed from KwaZulu Natal and had already completed a range of jewelry combining beadwork and metals – she was the perfect candidate for the task. I always find it amazing how when you start to take steps in the right direction the universe sends the right people your way. So Zulu Mien had a Zulu jewelry designer there at the very beginning to help conceptualize the initial range.

Soon after our initial meeting we were planning our first trip to the field to run a workshop with the Rhubhani craft group and the rest is history.

Today Khanya is an award winning jewelry designer working as an academic at the University of Johannesburg. She has completed a Masters of Art in the field of design, Rough Diamond Evaluation and Diamond cutting certificates. She is also currently a PhD candidate at the University of Johannesburg in the department of Visual Art, majoring in Art History.

Khanya is also the founder of her very own jewelry company – Changing Facets. The company specializes in contemporary wearable art jewelry that draws inspiration from indigenous cultures within the African continent. Khanya is a passionate advocate for the growth of the jewelry industry in South Africa and is the driving force behind the establishment of the South African Jewelry Week event – the first platform of its kind in the country. The event aims to provide and garner the attention of potential clients for designers.

We were very lucky to make contact with such a talent early in the establishment of Zulu Mien and are proud to have Khanya as part of our story.