Beaded Realities: Ubuhle and the South African Character

Things Held in Common

My 5-month study abroad in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province awakened in me an undeniable connection to the African diaspora.  It explains my instant and deep connection to the “Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence” exhibit currently featured at the Anacostia Community Museum through January 4, 2015. This powerfully moving collection displays 31 works from a unique South African art form:  a beaded tradition that has a sacred significance in the Xhosa and Zulu cultures. The exhibit not only evokes an emotional response, but it provokes thought as well.  Each bead and the meticulous placement and stitching thereof create vivid imagery of stories, events, individuals, and locations that are specific to the artist, yet remain translatable to the general viewing audience.

Each of the women of the Ubuhle art collective serves as a cultural gatekeeper for her respective community. Through the beaded artwork, these female artists express both the…

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