By Nii B. Andrews.
The NOTORIOUS RBG who passed on last week was an outspoken admirer of the South African Constitution.
She was also a friend of Albie Sachs, the famous South African jurist, who was severely injured by a car bomb in 1988 while in exile in Mozambique.
RBG’s collection of jabots – the ornamental frills, or decorative pieces, she was noted for wearing around her neck over her black judge’s robe garnered a lot of attention.
Some commentators have likened the collars to a raised fist for the non-negotiable need for female participation at the highest levels of society.
In an interview in 2015, RBG said that her favourite collar was a white beaded one from Cape Town.
Kim Lieberman, a conceptual contemporary African artist, utilises materials such as money, postage stamps and lace in order to provoke us to think differently about the meanings we attach to these materials across cultures and time.
Thus, Lieberman’s art provides for dialogue and interaction between seemingly disparate groups while in a clever manner deciphering their connectedness.
In 2018, a bobbin-lace collar made by Lieberman for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was handed to RBG by Albie Sachs when he visited his friend in Washington.
The collar is made from white silk thread with silver tips.
Lieberman explained that she resorted to the arcane art of lace making in order to highlight what she considered to be “royal thought worth framing”.
These are the qualities of honesty, integrity, ethics and morality; important, wholesome and indispensable qualities for standing up for what is right and to effect necessary changes that will lead to progress.
She refers to lace collar making as an “extreme craft” as it is based on complex mathematical formulae.
Lieberman then explained, “The ground of the lace is the background and I liken it to the background that goes on in our lives.
It’s the matrix. It’s also about the flow of invisible information that goes between us, and the way we’re connected. Wild lace. Wild ground. Wild thought.
I used the same pattern, which is the one that makes visual and conceptual sense to me, for RBG’s collar because I wanted to insert some of myself into the gift, but I also wanted to represent her wild integrity.”
As far as Lieberman was concerned “wild integrity”, means “somebody who is so hardcore, so radical, that they just persevered single-mindedly – or I should say expansive-mindedly – in doing the right thing”.
Albie Sachs later wrote that when RBG received the collar, “She gasped…..literally gasped, as did her secretary and her step-grandson, who is a law student. She felt and touched the necklace, placed it around her neck, and put it back on the soft dark cushion. She said she wasn’t sure if she would wear it or display it as an art artwork.”
Since lace collars frame the head, the supposed seat of thought, Lieberman leaves us with this parting thought, “Whose heads are we framing now, here in Africa?” and “Whose head would YOU frame?”