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The art of pearls of the ndebele

People of South Africa living in the south east of Pretoria, the Ndebele have developed an art form recognized internationally as an aesthetic and architectural model.

The territory of the Ndebeles is located straddling the north of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Women are known for their ankle and neck rings, which indicate their status as married women.

Their story is intimately linked to their resistance to Boers and deportations under apartheid in South Africa. The attachment to traditions, of which women are the main guarantors, is very much alive. They are the ones who decorate the houses with sumptuous geometric frescoes in bright colors, whose motifs also appear in the loincloths and braided or embroidered necklaces that they wear.

Introduced in southern Africa in the 16th century by the Portuguese, pearls were traded for gold and ivory. The work of the pearls is therefore an ancient art of several centuries, whose social and aesthetic functions were built over time; from ceremonial costumes to the marker of the social status of women. Ndebeles children receive at birth a single row of white pearls to bring them good luck, they wear it even before wearing clothes.

Originally, it was tiny white pearls that adorned ceremonial garments, colored beads – red, blue, green and orange – being used to represent symbols of gender and the sun. Then the sixties see the appearance of new colors to enrich the range of patterns.

Find our Ndebele bracelets by clicking here.


Copyright Angela Fisher


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