Width: 3 ¼ inches
Width with Fringe: 6 ½ inches
Hanging Length: 16 inches
Flat Length: 23 inches
Hand Crafted in South Africa
This unique hand beaded Zulu necklace/ collar is made up of hundreds of glass beads in copper, black and gold. The necklace is designed to be like a collar, but instead of lace it is made up of individually strung beads.
This necklace has been made by several small scale self-help projects that have evolved in recent years to uplift Zulu women, who whilst working from their homes, are able to supplement their incomes and at the same time maintain the traditional craft of beadwork.
About Zulu Beadwork
Beads and beadwork have been an important part of the culture of southeast Africa for hundreds of years, perhaps for millennia. They have been used by archaeologists to date the ancient ruins of Mapungubwe and Zimbabwe, by historians to provide evidence of trading activities and contacts with other civilizations and cultures, and by anthropologists who have recognized Zulu beadwork as an important social regulator and index of status within the society. Curiously enough, however, Zulu beadwork, acknowledged to be among the finest in Africa, has received very little attention as an artistic expression.
African beadwork is a strong part of the Zulu tradition and the tradition of many other African tribes. Trade in beads began hundreds of years ago, probably even before the days of Henry Francis Fynn - the first European settler to settle in Natal in 1824. These beads came to be highly valued by the Zulu tribes who then started to add them to many different items and even weaved into them messages which were then sent to friends and lovers.
Beads were probably first traded in Africa during the time of the Egyptians, Sumerians and Chaldeans about three thousand years ago. Since the Zulu people could not make these themselves they came to value them highly and used them to craft many different items and also as a means of communication.
The patterns and colors used to create Zulu beadwork contained specific messages and symbols. They were used to show whether a girl was single, engaged to be married or a new mother.
Glass beads are a by-product of the discovery of glass, which occurred in Egypt during the rule of the pharaohs some 30 centuries ago. Egyptian glass beads were transported by the Phoenicians from the Nile Delta to every port along the North African coast and the ancient Negro kingdoms of West and Central Africa. The Arabs succeeded the Phoenicians as traders and continued to supply beads to Africans along the East Coast. To this day, red cornelian beads of Indian origin are washed out on South Africa's shores from ancient Arab vessels that fell victim to storms and sank.
Glass beads were valued in Africa, not because Africans were duped into believing them to be precious stones, but because they were the products of an exotic technology, of which the equivalent was unknown in sub-Saharan Africa at that time. Beads, therefore, became precious in their own right and were crafted into a variety of objects to be worn according to custom, and as a token of social status, political importance and for personal adornment.
What makes Zulu beadwork unique is the code by which particular colors are selected and combined in various decorative geometrical designs in order to convey messages. The geometric shapes themselves have particular significance and the craft itself forms a language devoted entirely to the expression of ideas, feelings and facts related to behavior and relations between the sexes.
The Zulu beadwork language is deceptively simple: it uses one basic geometric shape, the triangle, and seven basic colors. The triangle's 3 corners represent father, mother and child. A triangle pointing down represents and unmarried woman; pointing up it represents an unmarried man. Two triangles joined at their bases represented a married woman, while two triangles joined at their points, in an hourglass shape, represent a married man.