Ndebele Beadwork

The Ndebele people are of the Bantu Tribe., Together with  the Xhosa and Zulu peoples, they have made the most extensive and aesthetic use of glass beads. Beadwork and beaded jewellery is one of the oldest and most basic of the ornamental skills carried out in Southern Africa by rural people.  Mostly, it shows the development of a young girl to womanhood.

Prior to the Second World War most Ndebele work had a white seed bead base with simple designs in colours of blue, black and red. However, after the war bolder designs matching their houses started to appear.

Today, with the tourist in mind, Ndebele produce beadwork not only along traditional lines but items in a more commercial vein, such as:

  • very fine beaded baby dolls that display miniature examples of the adult woman’s beaded wardrobe;
  • gourds and bottles with a net weave over them;
  • small brooms with a beaded handle;
  •  beaded animals as souvenirs;
  • Small trinkets and
  • intricate bead trains, capes and aprons.

A piece seen and reproduced for the tourist trade is a married woman’s apron, often fully beaded leather with five fingers at the bottom and beadwork done in lazy stitch. The seed beads on these objects are beaded with string around the object.