Africa | African Inspired Jewelry | Jada Jo Handmade Jewelry

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Africa

From sipping mint tea in a Moroccan souk to gazing out over the Serengeti plains, Africa seems to hold more life-changing moments within its borders than anywhere else on earth. Beyond its awe-inspiring natural allure, the warmth and beauty of its people are what give this continent a very special place in the hearts of every visitor.

Tanzania: My Personal Mountain

Looming high over the border between the African countries of Tanzania and Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro has always occupied a very special place in my mind. An icon of my favorite continent, Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and is abundant with myth and legend concerning its history, discovery and the climbers who have endeavored to reach its peak. More so, it has always been a deeply personal goal of mine to climb the mountain, discover its storied legacy and experience its sheer majesty for myself.

The climb itself, up the mountain’s sloping volcanic face, proved to be less of a physical challenge and more of an exercise in mental fortitude. As I trekked and trekked, my movements themselves became almost a meditative practice. The stresses and strains of everyday life slowly faded from consciousness, with the task of simply putting one foot in front of the other becoming my only preoccupation. This unmatched sense of clarity allowed me to be wholly and truly in the moment, as a I focused solely on my body, the earth beneath me and the perseverance to just keep going!

I realized what a welcome lesson this was, one that was to be applied to every aspect of my life. Despite whatever obstacles may present themselves, whatever hurdles may fall in your path, the mere act of concentrating at the task at hand, adapting to your environment and persisting against the odds will always get you closer to your personal peak. And, I speak from experience here, when you finally reach that personal peak, the pride in your accomplishment will be even sweeter.

Having conquered my personal mountain, the remainder of my time in Tanzania was spent on safari. Gazing out across vast Serengeti plains, scattered with white-bearded wildebeest, leaping gazelle and herds of zebra is a moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life. My trip was perfectly timed to witness the large-scale annual migration, and I couldn’t help but connect the journeys of these animals to the personal journey that I had experienced just days before: the practice of perseverance, focus and fortitude ultimately delivering them to their desired destination.

Every trip we take, whether near or far, is as much a mental and spiritual exercise as it is a physical one. New experiences can spark revelations, personal insights and heightened awareness about ourselves, others and the world we call home. These are the stories that I strive to tell, not only here, but through the pieces I craft. Every piece has significance, every piece has a journey and every piece has its own rich story to tell. One that will hopefully continue on, infused by the unique experiences of its future wearers.

Seychelle Islands: Nature's Work of Art

An almost cosmically aligned constellation of 115 islands off the East African coast, the Seychelles is, quite simply, paradise. Sapphire blue waters, white sand beaches and lush vegetation welcome you in with a warm air of peace and serenity; a hideaway where you can be with your thoughts and soak in the transformative energy of your surroundings.

Despite being a relatively short trip from Tanzania, the Seychelles was truly a world of its own. Flying in, I almost felt like I was entering an unseen protective bubble. Uninhabited throughout most of recorded history and once thought to be The Garden of Eden, the islands retain a calming sense of isolation and independence that I’ve rarely experienced anywhere else on my travels.

Basking in an endless summer, indigenous wildlife also thrives in this environment, the air quietly humming with the activity of sea birds, giant tortoises and marine life. Likewise, the people of the Seychelles are blessed with the kind of relaxed energy and hospitable nature that makes you feel instantly at home. European, African, and Asian influences can be seen and heard everywhere, enhancing the aura that everyone is welcome here.

Sinking my toes into the sand of Anse Source D’Argent—the most beautiful beach I have ever set my eyes upon—the ocean breeze filling my senses and the sun’s rays filling me with warmth, I knew that in this moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Brushing by spice plants on the island’s innumerable wild hiking trails, I was rewarded with scents of cinnamon, ylang-ylang and lemon grass. This is a was place where getting lost is a valid pastime, and in getting lost, you might just find yourself.

Beyond the natural artistry of its surroundings, fine art plays a major role in Seychellois society and culture. As I explored, I encountered numerous small studios, hidden in the landscape and embedded in the jungle, where creators of all types celebrate their craft. Much of their work—whether watercolor or pastel, etching or silk-printing—was inspired by the landscape of their environment with vibrant colors and soft strokes echoing the paradise that exists just on their doorstep.

My time in the Seychelles was akin to a creative nirvana. My mind calmed, my body warmed and my soul nourished by the place and its people. Every color, scent and shape filed away into my consciousness as fuel for future work. I felt physically relaxed and spiritually reinvigorated in the knowledge that I was in the right place and on the right path. And that’s the true magic of the Seychelles.

Uganda: An Unexpected Awakening

With the unmatched beauty of its landscapes, unprecedented diversity of inhabitants and unimaginable vastness in scale, Africa will always be—by far—my favorite continent. While these are just a few reasons why I’m completely enamored by this part of the world, the opportunity to grow, help and learn from its people is what keeps Africa in my heart, mind and soul to this day.

While most visitors venture straight to the hotspots of Kenya or South Africa, I’ve been lucky enough to travel off the beaten path, away from the tourist traps and beaches, to an Africa that most people don’t get to experience. An Africa that I fell in love with. On a recent philanthropic trip to Uganda—to bring much-needed goods to a displaced Pygmy tribe, orphanage and school—I was able to immerse myself in a culture that has had a profound impact on both my way of life and the way I see the world.

The Pygmy people are believed to be descendants of Late Stone Age hunter-gatherers of the African rainforest, and many have carried on the ways and practices of their forbearers into the modern age. Living primarily off the naturally occurring products in their environment, they are extremely reliant on the land as a source of food, clothing, shelter and goods to trade with. The group I visited were displaced when their land—now part of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park—became a protected habitat for endangered mountain gorillas. As they adjusted to this new environment, they struggled to find the wild resources that had been more abundant in their former home.

Their adaptability and resilience in the face of this overwhelming adversity inspired me, as did their creativity in being able to build their daily lives through whatever crossed their path. And while this trip was not directly related to my jewelry craft, these sensibilities resonated with me deeply and have become somewhat of a daily ritual: to remind myself to innovate with—sometimes unexpected—materials, practice gratitude, honor nature and continue to forge ahead. This experience also strengthened my resolve to make my business a platform for giving back to the individuals who make this world such an awe-inspiring place to live.

This won’t be my last trip to Africa, there is simply too much to explore, to experience and to enjoy for me to stay away for long.