When a customer at a local market first saw this bracelet she said ‘what great bling’. I thought, well it might be great 'bling' but it's almost impossible to photograph - it's so shiny and sparkly that the camera seems to just give up. Then I thought again - I wonder what she meant. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the word but I have never been quite sure what it means. Wikipedia came to the rescue describing bling as:
- ‘fashy or elaborate jewelry and ornamented accessories that are carried, worn or installed, such as cell phones or tooth caps. The concept is often associated with rappers.’.
- ‘In linguistics terms, bling is an ideophone intended to evoke the "sound" of light hitting silver, platinum, or diamonds. It is not onomatopoeia, because the act of jewelry shining does not make a sound. ….The origins of the term are disputed and claimed by various artists.’
However, I've learnt that the origins of the word are not the only controversy that surrounds because of the widespread use of diamonds in bling jewelry. Diamond mining has been linked to major conflict, wars and worker exploitation and diamonds mined in war zones where profits benefit warloads and the diamond industry are known as ‘blood diamonds’. The term was popularised in the 2006 film - ''Blood Diamond'' starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou.
As always, it seems the everyday is political. A simple term like ‘bling’ seems so harmless yet it is important to think about how our everyday links to those beyond us. There are some terrific programs attempting to bring equity and fairness into the mining of diamonds and other precious minerals used in bling jewelry, such as gold and silvet. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) called Diamonds for Development (D4D) is one such program.
BLING is less well-known film than ‘Blood Diamond’ but is linked to the D4D program. It looks at the complex relationship between “blood” diamonds, conflict, the influence of Hip-Hop music and culture, and community development. It is produced by VH1 Rock Docs, Article 19 Films and UNDP with Hip-Hop artists from the US and Sierra Leone. If anyone has seen it I’d love to know what you felt about it. You can see a trailor of it at: http://www.undp.org/bling/
So, when you next think bling, think fairness and equity for those who produce the sparkle that blings.