At 17, Liberian teenager Lovetta Conto is making jewelry worn by Hollywood heavyweights like Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie. Akawelle (translates to “also known as love”) makes a heck of a statement. Her pieces aren’t made of typical semi-precious stones, Lovetta makes her jewelry from the casings of bullets fired during Liberia’s civil war. Born in Liberia, Lovetta was only 18 months when she was separated from her mother after she and her father fled Liberia to escape its civil war. At five-years-old, she moved to a Ghanaian refugee camp. She tells CNN, “I felt alone because I was in another country where I wasn’t really welcome. I always wanted to back to my country. But you have no choice because your country is in a civil war and it’s the only place you have to be.” At 12, Lovetta was recognized for her talent by Cori Stern, the American founder of the Strongheart Fellowship, an organization dedicated to helping gifted youth who have been displaced or orphaned by conflict.
According to CNN, at 14 Lovetta left her family in Ghana and moved to America as part of the Strongheart program.When Lovetta was challenged by a Strongheart project to make something that reflected her environment and the people around her, she came up with the idea to design jewelry from a bullet fired during the Liberian civil war.
CNN reports profits from Lovetta’s designs built the “Strongheart House”–a home built in Robertsport, Liberia, for the organization’s youth all over the world. It’s the place Lovetta calls home and shares with 11 other teenagers. Lovetta’s work is informed by the advice of her father who told her if she believed in herself, she could go far in life. Lovetta says, “I always wanted to be a fashion designer. I admired people so much when we would go out of the camp to Accra, in Ghana, and see all the people in their fancy clothes. I always thought maybe on day I could do that.” Find out more about Lovetta Conto and her Akawelle jewelry at Strongheart!