Passing the Torch: Senegalese Metalsmithing Across Geography and Gender
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In 2017, Karen Smith was already working full time as a metalsmith, but she wanted to learn the heritage skills of goldsmithing. Initially she was told, “Women don’t wield the hammer,” but through encouragement and support from her network, Smith had the opportunity to train with master craftsman Ibrahima Sow. She spent six months under his tutelage in Dakar, Senegal, learning the art of filigree. When she returned to the United States, she formed an organization called We Wield the Hammer, dedicated to teaching metalsmithing arts to women and girls of African descent in Oakland, California.
In this Story Circle, we journey with Karen and Adeniji Asabi-Shakir, a graduate of her program, through the chain of transmission and innovation that links three generations of experience with this ancient art form as it traveled from West Africa across the Atlantic. Folklife curator Diana Baird N’Diaye, our moderator, is connected to metalsmithing through her grandfather who was a goldsmith in Guyana, South America, and her own work as a jewelry artist.
This program is a part of the African American Craft and Crafts of African Fashion initiatives.
American Sign Language interpretation and closed captions will be provided for this program.
About the Artisans
Karen Smith is a self-taught metal artist, arts educator, and the founder and executive director of We Wield the Hammer. A Brooklyn transplant, she is a longtime resident of Oakland, California.
Adeniji Asabi-Shakir is a sculptor and former student of We Wield the Hammer. She lives in Oakland, California.