Cambodian Bombshell Jewellery: A Transformation
Cambodian artisan Ven Sovann struggled to find his place in life. Born into a refugee camp following the era of the Khmer Rouge, he traveled from province to province in search of work. It wasn’t until he discovered the Rajana Association that he found both a remarkable project and a home for himself. At Rajana, artisans shape discarded bombshells into symbolic jewellery, and in the process are proudly transforming a legacy of conflict into a brighter future.
Ravaged and impoverished by decades of civil war, its countryside strewn with unexploded landmines, Cambodia has the highest proportion of amputees in the world. One traveler, on asking local village elders why the area had so many lotus and fish ponds, was shocked to discover that he was looking at the craters of bomb blasts.
But from hardship emerges hope.
Ten Thousand Villages offers remarkable pieces of bombshell jewellery from Rajana: a Peace Dove necklace and a Tree of Life necklace and earrings, all handcrafted from shell casings recovered from the Cambodian countryside.
Rajana works in partnership with the Halo Trust, a demining agency whose mission is to make the land safe once again for communities throughout Cambodia. The shells are gathered and then cut and shaped by Rajana’s skilled metalworkers. "When we make jewellery [like this], we know our country has peace," says one young artisan.
Artisans at Rajana – whose name means “design” in Khmer – are channeling Cambodia’s thriving artistic traditions into contemporary products to be shared with the world. The organization, established in 1995, is completely owned and operated by Khmer people, providing stable and sustainable income and employment, interest-free loans, and assisting with health and education. Rajana also provides training for young people in craft production, marketing, computer skills, accounting and English.