Let the beads do the talking



Hlengiwe Dube is not only one of South Africa’s most accomplished bead artists, she is also responsible for much of the vibrant craft that emerges from KwaZulu-Natal, thanks to her work with the African Craft Centre. Finally, she has been able to distil her considerable knowledge of beadwork with this new publication. Zulu Beadwork: Talk with Beads promises not only to contain images of great work, but also decode the complex language of beads themselves. Here’s a blurb from the publisher:

Most of the studies of African art available in this country have been written by outsiders. And, while these accounts can be informative, there is a level of understanding that only an insider can provide. For this reason, Africa Direct is proud to present Zulu Beadwork: Talk with Beads. Its author, Hlengiwe Dube, is a Zulu woman raised in a traditional family. She has been director of the African Art Centre in Durban, South Africa, for many years. Her relationship with Zulu beadwork is direct and personal, much of it drawn from her own experience or stories passed down by her mother and grandmother. In Zulu Beadwork: Talk with Beads, she makes her expertise available to readers everywhere. In an engaging, conversational style, she talks about the “unspoken words” of traditional beadwork designs. Each color of bead, and each combination of colors, creates a different message. From the white beads that assure a lover, “Whenever I see you my heart goes white as the milk of cattle when they are milked in the morning,” to the green beads that proclaim, “I am going to wait for my husband as he works in Johannesburg,” Hlengiwe Dube leads us through the fascinating complexities of beadwork messages. Illustrated throughout with beautiful color photographs and including chapters on historical and regional trends, Zulu Beadwork: Talk with Beads is a must-read for anyone interested in learning about African art from the people who create it.

2 thoughts on “Let the beads do the talking”

  1. “Most of the studies of African art available in this country have been written by outsiders.”
    How true! Last night I found a site filled with beautiful paintings of African woman done by an Australian artist who’s never been to Africa… tonight I find out about South African beads form another Australian!

    It’s about time us South Africans started to tell the rest of the world about our art and our culture! Brace yourselves world…

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