Zulu Beadwork History
The Zulu people are an ethnic group whose members live mainly in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, where their culture, language, and tradition are preserved. Zulu beadwork is not only beautiful, but is also rich in tradition and cultural meaning. What makes this intricate craft and art unique is the use of decorative geometrical designs, particularly the triangle, and colors to convey a message. Each of the seven colors can be used to convey a negative or a positive meaning. For example, yellow means wealth in a positive context, but badness in a negative one. Red means physical love and strong emotion, but negatively it depicts anger and heartache. The craft itself forms a language devoted entirely to the expression of ideas and feelings related to relations between the sexes.
Beadwork is practiced by Zulu women and is passed down through generations by the older women in the family. They become communities of their own and are empowered by their skill and contributions to their communities.
Most of the women who bead for Thanda Zulu have struggled for most of their lives to earn a sufficient income that will allow them to support themselves and their families. They didn’t believe they would be able to earn an income through a craft they loved, were skilled at, and could do from the comfort of their own homes.
Over the years, Thanda Zulu has worked to cultivate confidence in these women as artists, not just beaders. We work with each beader’s skill set to encourage them to extend beyond their creative boundaries and move our designs forward. Our beaders have a tremendous amount of pride in their work and are continually inspired to develop and adapt new designs with their own personal touches.
A sense of empowerment is felt through their ability to translate this long-standing craft into a way to support themselves and their families.