Mesopotamia: The Art of Jewelry with Esteemed Designer Hajer Ghani
Reported by: Isra Ibrahim
The Zay Initiative’s Dr. Reem El Mutwalli Moderates Discussion with Jewelry Designer Hajer Ghani
On Feb. 8th, 2022, Dr. Reem El Mutwalli moderated a conversation of the art of Mesopotamian jewelry with Hajer Ghani, an Iraqi jewelry designer. As the founder of the Zay initiative, Dr. Mutwalli introduced the series as “a conversation between the old and new” and described the Zay initiative and series as one of cross-cultural understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage of the Arab region through “Zay” or dress. She reaffirmed the non-profit’s commitment to preserve the “tangible by narrating the intangible” and to record the artifacts of those before us.
Photo credit: Khalidinhophotography
The Influence of Mesopotamia on the Fine Art of Jewelry
The webinar’s acclaimed guest, Hajer Ghani, embodied the purpose and spirit of the Zay Initiative as she gave a fascinating lecture on how the historical and cultural intersections of ancient Mesopotamia impacted her work as a modern-day Iraqi jewelry designer.
As her mother was an archeologist and her father a sculptor, Ghani credited her parents as critical cultural actors in her early childhood. She shared how her mother’s colleague made a historical discovery of 650 jewelry pieces in Nimrud, Iraq, which she was able to access and visit.
“However, an earlier discovery was made in Ur, the south of Iraq. Those pieces were discovered in the cemetery of Queen Puabi 2500 BC.” Ghani stated.
From this earlier collection, crowns, headpieces, and necklaces and more were collected.
Ghani noted, “Many of these pieces were crafted to hold sacred meanings such as the 3 flowered crown, which is a symbol of the holy trinity.”
However, many of these pieces weren’t just for purposes of jewelry or adornment. “Pieces made of gold and silver were made in the shape of fish to act as divine offerings at the temple. They represented richness and wealth. So, jewelry is not just for adornment but is used for divinity, and even for healing”, she indicated.
Dr. Mutwalli quickly noted how these traditions are woven until modern day and are seen in present jewelry and design.
What the earlier discovery demonstrates is how limited the pieces discovered were since they stemmed from a specific historical and geographical context that told a localized story of Iraq.
However, a second discovery in Nimrud was more diverse as it was traced to the period of Assyrian rule, which colonized areas from Egypt to Iran and even Turkey. Due to multicultural contact and trade routes, this collection discovered was larger and diverse beyond just Iraqi history.
As her father was a sculptor, Ghani noted that she would take her father’s sketches and transform into jewelry for her line as it demonstrated her culture and personal life. Later, she wanted to create a line that was born innately from her own love of Iraqi identity and history, which made her reflect of her childhood visit to the Nimrud treasure.
Ghani also sought to use old traditions in her work by creating the aesthetic of the cylinder seal, which was an ancient way people would sign their names.
During her presentation, she briefly showed how those pieces roll for people to sign.
“Who are the people who buy your pieces?” asked Dr. Mutwalli.
“People from all over, but mostly Iraqis because they can relate to my line. I also started making jewelry for men so more people could access my brand,” Ghani replied.
Photo credit: Khalidinhophotography
About | Fine Jeweler Hajer Ghani
Hajer Ghani is an Iraqi jewelry designer who believes that jewelry is more than a mere accessory, but a work of art rich in history and significance. Every piece she creates always has a story behind it. Ghani began her journey by designing gold and silver jewelry inspired by the work of her father, the late Iraqi sculptor Mohammed Ghani Hekmat, also known as “Sheikh of Sculptors”, who in turn captured the Babylonian, Assyrian, and Sumerian civilizations of Iraq in his work. Ghani then moved on to design different types of jewellery inspired by the tales and history of Mesopotamia.
Today, she is working in Bahrain and the Managing Director of Ghani Art, taking care of her father Mohammed Ghani’s legacy.
She is also the Founder and Director of Hajer Ghani Fine Jewelry.
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