Together Forever Nelson Mandela and Graca 1998

Shangaan beadwork on cloth

Cloth size: 102 x 144cm

A Brief History of Contemporary Tsonga-Shangaan Beadwork

"Somewhere between 1892 and 1920, there was an exponential explosion of bead working amongst the Tsonga-Shangaan of South Africa.

It is different from other southern African beading traditions, particularly in the way pattern and colour symmetry is ‘broken’ in a quirky way.

Much beadwork is worn to develop specific images of the body, working distinct stages of a person’s progress through life, with some beadwork being prescribed for more particular uses. However, in the 1970s, the market for African art in South African opened up to include objects formerly described as ‘craft’.

MINCEKA, which had once wrapped around women’s bodies, were transformed, and, by the late 1970s, they were being produced as artworks, without any intention on the past of the makers, that they could be worn.

The expansive decoration of the MINCEKA by Tsonga-Shanaan women highlights the extensive ways in which they have maintained a grasp on contemporary possibilities over more than a century. The cloth, beads and other accoutrements of their dress, are all imported commodities, and have been absorbed, adapted and rendered as ‘traditional’ Tsonga-Shangaan items."

PLEASE NOTE: The examples of Tsonga-Shangaan beadwork - now available at Rose Korber Art – are presented in tandem with the current exhibition, entitled DUNGAMANZI / STIRRING WATERS – the first exhibition to comprehensively celebrate and showcase Tsonga and Shangaan art – on view at the Iziko South African National Gallery from 13 February –8 June 2008 (co-curated by Johannesburg’s Natalie Knight and Nessa Leibhammer).

The brief history of Contemporary Tsonga-Shangaan Beadwork, quoted above, is from a wall text, written by co-curator, Nessa Leibhammer, at the DUNGAMANZI exhibition.

© 2006 All rights reserved. Origination by Di Conradie.