Glass beadwork has been a medium used in African artistic tradition for hundreds of years. Arab traders sailing in dhows up and down the east coast of Africa, used glass beads to barter with local tribes for a variety of goods including gold and ivory. The fact that only people of high status actually wore beads indicates how coveted they were as a medium of expression.
During our most resent trip to South Africa, we made contact with a large number of crafts people in Kwa Zulu Natal and the Western Cape and we purchased some really beautiful and individual pieces. It was very satisfying to see the level of skill displayed in the construction of some of these items. Zenzulu (pictured above) make the most stunning baskets which are rendered in telephone wire. We will be introducing an extensive range from Zenzulu in the African Origins Online Store during February so please come back and visit.
Whilst bead work is practiced by both men and women, it is mostly women who work with beads as the main media. Men incorporate wire as a secondary media to produce some really cute & very quirky items but it is the hands of the women were beadwork rises to a high art form..
We love Monkeybiz in Cape Town! This non profit organization was established out of a desire held by South African designer, Carrol Boyes to create employment and empowerment for disadvantaged women in Cape Town. So successful has Monkeybiz been, it has proven a catalyst for a revival of the ancient beading tradition in Southern Africa. The items produced by Monkeybiz are like no other. Animal and human figures are thrown into abstraction. They are both cute and artistically compelling at the same time.
African Origins is very pleased to deal with an organization like Monkeybiz because the entire process is a perfect illustration of how our business seeks to operate. The people running Monkeybiz are a non profit organization, they are on the ground in Cape Town with local knowledge of where resources are best deployed.
When someone in France for instance logs onto the African Origin website based in Melbourne, Australia and buys a Monkeybiz artwork, we buy two more from Monkeybiz, who in turn commission the crafter to made four more. Monkeybiz pay the crafter under the Fair Trade agreement and the crafter buys food for her family. We love it as a business model and we have seen the difference it makes in the lives of the Cape Town crafters.
The Origin African online store will have a large range of products to offer for sale by Monkeybiz in coming weeks. We know you will love them as much as we do.