Nobosudru's fine form lives on as wearable art

Nobosudru earrings in sterling silver, by F Bazin
Nobosudru earrings in sterling silver, by F Bazin
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André Citroën’s exploratory zeal defined the pioneering attitude of the 1920s and 30s. A master of marketing, his expeditions in Asia and Canada and through the Sahara publicised his eponymous car brand and his own car manufacturing prowess. His intentions were multi-faceted, and his journey through central Africa in 1925 was also fuelled by a desire to not only create a route through new terrain, but also to increase the quality of life of its surrounding residents.

It is an aim now edged with ethically ambiguous colonial implications, not least because Citroën drew directly from the locals he encountered, appropriating their image to define his brand.

He worked with sculptor François Bazin who created hood ornaments which quickly became collectors’ items. Bazin’s powerfully sculpted designs depicted the head of the Zairean tribeswoman Nobosudru, who went on to leave Africa and find fame of her own.

Portrait of Nobosudru

Portrait of Nobosudru (1925)

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Bazin’s granddaughter has now interpreted these richly historical adornments into four jewellery collections. They are the result of a collaboration with jewellery workshops in Paris who endowed the original sculptures with a contemporary functionality.

Nobosudru’s face was cast as earrings, rings and bracelets using the lost-wax process, reproducing the original form of the sculpture. ‘I really fell in love with this sculpture and its story,' says Julie Bazin. ‘I selected sterling silver as the prime material for the jewels, as I wanted a precious but casual metal.'

She refused to use rhodium finishing as she wanted a material that ‘lives with the time and develops a patina.'

The resulting effect means warm, pale-gold colours begin to emerge the longer the pieces are worn. It's a fitting reflection of Nobosudro's perennial beauty and majestic form, which lives on as miniature sculptures, which are as functional and beautiful as her grandfather originally intended.

Nobosudru ring jewellery in sterling silver, by F Bazin

Nobosudru ring in sterling silver, by F Bazin

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Bronze Nobosudru statue using the cire purdue process

Nobosudru immortalised in bronze using the cire purdue process

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Headdress earrings jewellery in sterling silver, by F Bazin

Headdress earrings in sterling silver, by F Bazin

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Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.