Tudor Collar

Tudor Collar

Collar from dried perforated pork skin

For the Am I not a woman or a sister collection, I've used pork skin. I came across the material in 2012 and perfected my own technique of drying and shaping the pure skin.

This piece is an interpretation of a Tudor Collar, a collar that was part of the high society wardrobe in the 17th century. Amongst the rich Dutch merchant families of that time it became fashionable to own an African house slave as an exotic curiosity. They often were depicted on family portraits and all show alienated expressions on their faces.
In the 19th century the Dutch added a black servant named Zwarte Piet (black Pete) to the legend of Saint Nicolas (Sinterklaas/Santa Claus). The inspiration for the costume of this new character were the outfits of the house slaves depicted in those 17th century paintings. Nowadays, during the feast of Sinterklaas, people In Holland and Belgium still dress up like zwarte piet and act crazy with blackfaces.

Photography: Caro Leriche

© 2014 Ruth Felter

 

Historic hand and footcuffs

Historic hand and footcuffs

One of the reasons why I chose to reinterpret horrendous objects like chains and torture masks is the material: wrought iron. The forging techniques of a blacksmith are related to those in the jewelry craft. Together with a blacksmith, I forged several historic hand and foot cuffs. I simply had to recreate them in order to fully realize the suffering of the slaves in the slave ships.

Photography: Caro Leriche

© 2014 Ruth Felter

Abolitionist Chain

Abolitionist Chain

Lasercut stainless steel

With modern laser cutting techniques I’ve created handcuffs with the abolitionist slogans “Am I not a man and a brother?” and “Am I not a woman and a sister?” 150 years after the abolition of slavery by the Dutch, the Abolitionist Chain is a commemorative jewel.
 

Photography: Caro Leriche

© 2014 Ruth Felter

Branded Bracelet

Branded Bracelet

Silver

The greatest injustice of slavery was the dehumanization of the slave. People were reduced to property and become a commodity like land or cattle. Like other livestock, a slave was branded. Today branding is still of great economic value. Think of brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, or luxury houses like Chanel or Louis Vuitton. This is how I got interested in designing my very own brand mark.
Thanks to the slavery lists that the Dutch administration left at the abolition, I've been able to track down my ancestors from Coronie in Surinam. I’ve found lists full of Felters. The list shows the occupation field slave, house slave, nanny… Their last name Felter - most probably - was the name of their owner or overseer. My initials FR could just as well have been branded on their shoulders.

 

Photography: Caro Leriche

© 2014 Ruth Felter

Branded Mask

Branded Mask

Leather and messing


The reconnection between branding on real skin and the iconic graphical power of contemporary luxury brands is very fascinating. This lead to the design of my luxury version of a historic slave mask.

 

Photography: Kristof Van Brussel

© 2014 Ruth Felter

Dirt mask

Dirt mask

dried pig snout, leather, silver 

The dirt mask must have been a horrendous torture. To prevent captivated slaves from taking their lives by eating dirt and sand, the most rebellious slaves were punished by this mask. Most of them died from metal poisoning or gangrene caused by the mask. One of the best-known stories related to the dirt mask is the legend of Anastacia. Anastacia is believed to be the first Brazilian slave woman with blue eyes. Because she refused to give her master sexual favors she was punished with a dirt mask. Currently Anastacia is worshipped as a saint in Rio. 
In my interpretation I’ve worked with dried pig’s snout as a reference to the dehumanization of the slave. The silver Kauri shells keep the construction of leather threads together. The Kauri shell (Monetaria moneta) was the currency, which the V.O.C (Dutch East India Company) imported from the Far East and used for buying slaves in Africa. 

 

Photography: Caro Leriche

© 2014 Ruth Felter

Silver Kauri

Silver Kauri

Dirt mask detail

 

Photography: Caro Leriche

© 2014 Ruth Felter

Historic footcuffs

Historic footcuffs

Wrought metal

 

Photography: Caro Leriche

© 2014 Ruth Felter