Finding Freedom in Art
The Story of Charmaine Taylor aka the “Wild Horse”.
“I’ve got this freedom inside myself and everyone calls me the wild horse. So, I came to America and I had this vision.”
J: I want to hear your story. It was very clear to me that part of what you’re doing and why you’re doing what you’re doing is because of the call that’s on your life. That’s really what I want to capture. You are the perfect kind of artisan to be in the magazine. Your work just spoke to me so strongly, so I’m just totally honored and I cannot wait for people around the world to see it. I want to get what’s really important—your heart, your story, and how God has spoken to you about what you’re doing and maybe a little bit about when it started, the design part, and how He birthed that in you.
C: I’m actually a pastor’s kid. I’ve been brought up in the church. So my foundation has always been God-fearing, God-based, putting God first and also kind of always having that ingrained feeling of being led by God and led by progress. I’ve got an amazing mom and dad and had a very amazing home life in the church. In the church, you also get challenged. I’ve always had this love for new things and meeting new friends and people would say “How would you describe yourself?” I’d always say Brave. I’ve always been brave to try new things. Also, being South African, kind of far away from the rest of the world, I’ve always loved to travel and experience new things. So that in mind, I’ve got a marketing background. I studied overseas and I went to London and came back to South Africa because I’ve always felt led to come home. There’s so much need back home and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to South Africa, but it’s totally (obviously being very biased because I love my country) beautiful and it’s golden and there’s a lot of need there. So, I then I started working for a company where I actually would draw the children’s wear on a computer. It has now developed into graphic design. I said, “I actually want to start doing something on my own,” so I started doing graphic design and my company was called Love Design. Also, I have these seasons where I always redevelop myself. Almost every 6-7 years, I’ve done something completely new. You know, I love what I did, but I said that if I do one more logo for someone, I don’t think I can actually have the creative capacity to do it. My juices just completely ran out. Then, I got called to do something more in my community and to give back so I did what I called “Conscious Art.” And I said, “Lord, there has to be more than just sustaining myself…it’s just not working.” And in between this, I actually, not knowing what to do, took a trip to America in 2011.
I had this word over my life that “I’ll have in-roads into America.” I’ve got this freedom inside myself and everyone calls me the Wild Horse. So, I came to America and I had this vision and I said, “Lord, I want to bring a product back to the world that cannot be manufactured by China that’s fundamentally South African and that everyone can know, love and relate to.” And you know, how much more is the Robben Island Prison fence about freedom and about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela, when he was released, was loved by most of the world and we had, fundamentally, a man of the world who’s iconic. I loved him as a person and he had so many attributes that were actually Jesus-based. So, you know, he had the love and he had the love of Christ, or the forgiveness and the grace of Christ. (But obviously, Jesus is our ultimate example.) So with that in mind, a friend of a friend of mine rescued the original prison fence from Robben Island in 2009 and I was like, “Wow, this is incredible.” I thought he was taking over the world with it. I said to him, “Well, what are you guys doing with it?” He said, “We actually shelved it for now because we’re actually doing too much.” And I said (during this time of doing “Conscious Art”), “Can I do something with it?” This was after my trip to America. That was in 2013 and that’s when I started working with the prison fence and creating jewelry.
I actually first started with the framed art. It’s fantastic when you have something on your wall and to talk about it with friends, but what about taking something off the wall, an artwork, and actually placing it on yourself and having a wearable art artifact. This was when the jewelry was actually birthed, bearing in mind that I’ve never done jewelry before. Everyday was a school day—I was pulling my hair out, making the jewelers pull their hair out, but I wanted a specific thing and I’ve learned to actually think outside the box a lot, like doing something in 2 or 3 molds instead of 1. They were like, “No, you’re only supposed to have 1 mold for that.” I said, “No, I’ll pay for 3.” They were like, “You shouldn’t.” “No,” I said, “I’ll take 3 molds to make it the way I want it to look like.” So, I learned jewelry and God prepared me in a way that I’d done the artwork and the clothing. I’ve done graphic design, so I’ve actually done all of this myself. I created something that was already birthed in me and I was able to put that into a project that’s such a beautiful story of freedom. I’ve actually seen people being released just actually wearing it. So, not only am I creating jewelry from something that was tortuous and really negative, my main concept was “When you’re covered with love, grace and forgiveness, you transform from a broken past into something beautiful.” Isn’t that what every person has been through? Every person has their own scar to bear, but their story, at the end of the day, once they’ve conquered that fear and that freedom, is always a beautiful story to tell. Each piece of my jewelry is named in honor of our road to democracy and freedom, so it’s rights, peace, justice, mercy, hope. And each piece gets a unique serial number and on the back of it there’s a certificate of authenticity and the story and how to care for your jewelry.
I also give back to societies in Cape Town, to organic farming, and to a [special] community, and to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (I’ll buy equipment for them or all that kind of stuff).
J: Just touched me so much hearing you talk about all that—how the Lord prepares us and how He births thing in us. And I’m such a believer in how you can create something that does heal people. You didn’t say these exact words, but it’s like “Healing Art” and I think when I called you an Artisan, it was just the perfect word. Truly, that’s what the magazine ultimately is about. It’s people like you that clearly the Lord is calling and wanting to elevate and put up front and center and that, I know, is what He’s told me. I’m very particular about who I put in the magazine and that’s why I feel so responsible to make sure that it is the right people because these are the people that God is saying “I need my Bride highlighted and this is who I need highlighted.” And I know that at the heart of what you’re doing. There’s a language or a stream that I notice we all swim in. It’s a stream of healing and beauty and love above all else. I can see that’s at the heart of what you’re doing, that’s what’s being poured into it. So, that intention is just the root of it and what’s going to impact humanity and why I would not be at all surprised that people would see life and purpose and beauty and light and health in everything that they own that you would’ve created because that’s what it came from.
C: I’m also a firm believer in the power of the spoken word. God can say something once and it’s done. You know, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And I feel like if you wear something that’s titled (You know in Revelation where it says that your name is written and you wear your name). That’s what I feel like when you wear this jewelry. It’s something that’s a mantle. It was prophesied over me that “I will make things and place them around people’s necks and they will be freed.” And that was spoken once and you just have to believe the power of the spoken word—once it’s [said], it’s done.
J: Well, I affirm that. I affirm that word absolutely.
C: We as humans get the power to take that power away. We either believe it or we don’t. There’s a piece called “Africa Rising” and even with this new movie the “Black Panther” coming out, it’s almost like there’s a calling for Africans to remember who they are. When people wear it, it’s like people actually feel like it’s meaningful to them.
J: Beautiful, I love it. And I think God is doing something in the nations for sure. There’s just like a rattling and a waking up and that’s just beautiful. I knew that Africa was important and when you came forward, I knew God’s going to highlight this country. My main gifting is that of being a seer and so I have to be able to see—what is God saying? What is He saying to the Church globally? What does He want us paying attention to? Instead of paying attention to the news, we can see what He’s doing, like in South Africa or Africa. The Lord’s been bringing Australia to me, too, and there’s China. There’s just stuff happening all around the world and God’s going to do big things in these places this year. That’s why He’s highlighting, so I just declare that you are carrying a mantle for your country, not just for what God has called you, but you are carrying clearly a mantle for your country and that is so powerful. So I just want to acknowledge you and thank you. I can hear God speaking right now…I’m hearing Him say that there is some darkness that you’re up against (not maybe you personally but) in the community or something and He’s just saying that you need to continue to raise your voice and continue to take one step after the next and to continue to follow His lead because He said He’s really going to use your voice and your art in order to be very influential and there’s an assignment He’s going to reveal to you. I don’t know what all that means, I just know that it will come. And I don’t know if you do a lot of advocacy kind of work or speaking…do you do that kind of thing?
C: Public speaking? Yes,
J: Okay, good. Beautiful, okay, perfect. Because, I don’t know, I just know what I can hear Him say. Feels like it’s going to be something in the next few months where He’s going to position you in a place of authority.
C: I was just saying, “God, what next?” I feel like He’s taking me to a place where I’m meeting people of high influence, but it’s not sustaining me. I want to do something. I want to take action, really elevate my project into action form. I don’t want to [only] be giving people jewelry anymore. I want people to take the jewelry and do something with it. I want more than just meeting people of influence, which is beautiful—it’s a gift and I know it’s a gift and I thank God for that and I’m not dismissing that at all, but I’m wanting to really pioneer something that’s really going to break ground and break people’s mindsets and break down walls.
J: Yes, and it’s not a time, right now, for us to try to force anything. It’s completely the time to let God show off and do His thing and all we need to be doing is saying, “Okay Lord, use me—How do You want to use me?” When I saw that about the darkness, it was for those people who are blinded and looking for hope and I saw leaders so I know you’re a leader of leaders. You’re going to bring some kind of a breakthrough, some kind of a possibility in their seeing and their thinking. God’s moving so fast right now so everyone hold on to your seatbelts.
C: I was on set with a series called “Empire” and I thought “This is great, but what next?” It was prophesied over me that people of high influence will call me their own and I walked straight onto set and they treated me like their own and I was like, “Okay Lord, but what now?” I think the darkness is my own disillusionment—who I am in South Africa and who I am here.
J: The places where God is putting you with these leaders, see, like even being on set—Hollywood—I’m sure He wants you to influence. There’s a reason why you’re there. There’s a huge birthing that needs to happen in Los Angeles and Hollywood, so that was awesome that you were able to be honored with that, even if you were saying “I want more.” Because you’re still putting your thumb print, which ultimately is the Father’s thumbprint, when you step onto studio, that is so powerful. Even if you don’t know why you’re there because the Lord is putting us as His Bride in these places to start laying the ground. We can start when they open the doorway and [how] they’re honoring us, and that’s the season that we’re in and it’s so great and I’m so happy for you. Is there anything else you want me to know or that you want to say?
C: I think my main vision and passion for Legacy Collection is that I’m wanting to be fundamentally a South African. I am a very, very, very proud female South African entrepreneur. I’m passionate about women, about self-employment and about telling stories, and also about jewelry and art and creating conversations around history and keeping stories alive. I always get emotional when I talk about it, but I never got to meet Nelson Mandela. I did get to meet his best friend, Ahmed Kathrada. He was an amazing Indian man that was on the Rivonia Trial with Nelson Mandela where he said that iconic speech, “I’ll die for this.” Ahmed stood by him all his life. He took me to Robben Island and it was one of the most unbelievable days. I was so mesmerized by this man because he is everything that epitomized who Nelson Mandela was. What an incredible human he is. Not a Christian, he’s Hindu, but he challenged me by the way he spoke without hatred, without any fear. He spoke so eloquently, so beautifully—he spoke out of love. Everything he spoke about was “we,” it was never “I.” He came up to me a few times during that time and said to me, “My girl, what do you want to ask me?” I said, “Uncle Kathy, just keep talking. I want to hear everything you’re saying.” And I asked him “Did you ever lose hope that you would be released?” He said, “We could never lose hope because if we lost hope, we’d die. When you lose hope, there’s no reason to live.” And I found that a lot with people in bondage and poverty and that’s always something that I’m always wanting to keep alive with anyone in any situation—there’s always hope. I asked him “Who’s the most incredible person you’ve ever brought to the island, who challenged you and vice versa?” He told me it was a little 13 year-old girl who was dying of cancer. All she wanted to do was meet Nelson Mandela and go to Robben Island and learn about her history of her country—little white girl. He took her and she was so enlightened because she was dying. Nelson Mandela didn’t come to the island with her; he couldn’t. Mr. Kathrada called Madiba and told him about this little girl. He flew out to see [her] before she died. Every year, without fail, these two men would either go and visit the mom or call her on the anniversary of her death. And that, to me, is the ultimate human being and gets me to think, “Why are we not called to more?” Mr. Mandela was imprisoned and was this and this and this, but he used to take time out and see this 13 year-old girl’s mother and that’s the generation we need to bring up. The key is in the mother’s and in the father’s. Through Legacy Collection, I’m trying to remember the men, those men, and keep remembering the stories of old. Culturally, Africa is losing its culture. Culturally, we need to remember our elders. I actually created a chandelier for Mr. Kathrada because he died in April last year. It’s devastating—these men are passing away and we need to remember them, so I created a chandelier called “Hope” in his honor. If you lose hope, you die.
J: Wow. I wrote that down because I really felt like the Lord would have that be front and center, “If we lose hope, we die.” The Lord really leads the way in my writing so I just let Him do His thing and He very clearly wants that to be part of it, a big part of it.
Charmaine Taylor is based in South Africa and is the owner of Legacy Collection. www.legacycollection.org
Pictures by Siphephile Sibanyoni Styling. Art Direction Nontando Mposo. Model Nandipha Gumede.