You may dangle chandelier earrings from your lobes to dress up your favorite jeans, you may drape an ornament around your collar to accentuate your neckline, you may slide a trinket on your left wrist to bring out the accents in your shoes, because an outfit is incomplete without your accessories.
But to some, these accent pieces embody the proverbs of their ancestors, they represent the quest for self exploration and they symbolize one’s connection to mother earth. It’s the tradition, glamour, and craftsmanship of the Mickael Kra Jewelry collection that has accentuated garments for Louis Féraud, Pierre Balmain, Oscar de la Renta, Paco Rabanne, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Louis Scherrer and Rene Mancini and secure African-inspired wearable art in the world of Haute Couture.
“Jewelry is an adornment that has a meaning, a story and a history,” says “wearable artist” jewelry designer Mickael Kra. “A piece of Mickael Kra Jewelry becomes the main piece, the central piece and the clothing becomes the accessory,” says Mickael whose first designs (in the late 80’s, early 90) “Reine Pokou” were inspired by the Royal Ashanti Gold Weights. The weights were used as a means to measure specific quantities of gold and gold dust on the Ivory Coast until the late 17th century. Mickael’s strong connection to the tradition, beauty and spirtituality of the region inspired him to create costume jewelry from the historical weights.
“The silver work from the Touareg of the Sahara desert, the different techniques of beading from the Masai people of Kenya or the Kalahari , the great antique neck pieces from ancient Egypt, and the Islamic shapes of the Moroccan architecture,” Mickael displays art in the form of authentic materials, earth tones, feathers, beads and metals in his pieces. His most recent collection, “Pearls of the Kalahari,” is composed of ostrich-egg shells, glass beads, semi-precious stones and leather.
“Designing allows me to explore so many sides of my culture and heritage,” says Mickael who considers himself a “Citizen of the World.” His family tree and history stretch across more continents than some can name.
“Ever since I can remember, myself, my brother and sister always have been on the roads with my parents living between Europe and Africa,” says Mickael who enjoys cooking and gardening in his free time and lives in Cape Town, South Africa and maintains a residence in Paris. His mother is from France, his father is from the Ivory Coast, he grew up in Switzerland and Abidjan, Ivory Coast and at 17 moved to New York to study interior design at the Parsons School of Design.
He has lived in Lausanne, Switzerland; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Dakar, Senegal; New York; Los Angeles; Antananarivo, Madagascar; Cape Town and the Virgin Islands.
Mickael feels like his pattern of life has been the reverse to his peers, he feels priviledged and blessed to live for his passion.
“I started in New York, then Paris and Africa when most kids want to leave Africa for Europe in order to end up in the U.S.,” says Mickael, whose obsession is to show a fresh side of Africa.
“Africa is about humanity, sharing, joy and hospitality,” says Mickael despite the famine, conflicts, epidemics, and corruption that are presented by the media to represent Africa.
Mickael’s heritage and creative spirit are energized by Africa.
“It’s like charging my batteries…from the smells, the colors, and the smiles from the people,” says Mickael who is working with San Women (Bush Women) from Southern Africa to develop “Pearls of the Kalahari.” The social project is chronicled (along with photos of his work from the late 80’s) in his book, Mickael Kra: Jewellery between African Tradition and Paris Glamour published by Arnoldsche Art Publisher (Germany).
The book reflects Mickael’s work and shows the beauty and magic that is Africa. “The book is the reflection of my world and my universe with images and text related to my life and my environment.”
The book and his work with the women of Kalahari, represent Mickael’s personal mission to sacrifice his time and energy to the marginalized and oppressed people from the Apartheid Regime of Southern Africa.
“Being single with no children, I have decided to transmit my experience, my skill and my knowledge,” says Mickael, who conducts workshops in Namibia, Botswana and the Eastern Cape in South Africa to assist natives with finding solutions, improving techniques, and creating new designs that value their culture and tradition.
“It is a great project that has changed my life,” says Mickael whose influence stretches around the world but finds a universal peak to cultivate what is beautiful, rich and pure, Mickael Kra Jewelry, wearable art. “It is not the flash and the glitz of the fashion catwalk; it is an incredible encounter beneath the stars!”