The art of beadworking is one of the oldest traditional crafts dating back as far as 100,000 years. Today, beadworking can still be found all over the world in many different styles including stringing, loom weaving, wire wrapping, sculpture, decoupage, bead stitching, bead knitting, crocheting and embroidery. The traditional craft of beadwork is not only impactful in its art form, but it is also stunning when used in the making of jewelry, clothing and home decor.
But there is so much more to beadworking than what meets the eye. In fact, writer, David Dean, author of Beading In The Native American Tradition, states that “beadworking can be a craft of the mind or an art of the soul.” The process is not only meticulous and time consuming depending on the form, but it can also be a means to meditation, storytelling and self expression.
For a community of women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, beadworking became a way to independence. The Ubuhle artists' community was established in 1999 by local resident, Bev Gibson and master beader, Ntombephi Ntombela, to empower local women with the means to provide for their families through their art. Using black fabric as a canvas and handsewn tiny Czech glass beads, the Ubuhle community reinvented their beading tradition as a contemporary art form with the development of what they call the, Ndwango, meaning cloth or rag. This 31-piece exhibition, “Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence,” is being showcased until September 2014 at the Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C. and displays majestic woven stories about these women and their journeys.
Hidden within each bead is an easing of the mind, a life story told and an inspired artist. Beadworking, a traditional craft worth more than beauty…….
Written By Elena Schloss