The Ndebeles originate from KwaZulu-Natal and only moved to their present location in the 19th century. Archeological discoveries such as the Blombos beads 15 km from the coast and the Sibudu beads have yielded twenty-three marine gastropods, nine of which are perforated. This shows the communities in the area, Ndebeles included were already making beads over 5000 years ago. That has evolved over the years to the current bead we have today. According to The African Collection, before 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 Ndebele people produce beads not only for tradition but for tourists, embracing a sense of fashion and modernity in design and style.
Ndebele Stitch Beaded Bracelet
How are they made?
The Ndebele stitch is the iconic traditional beading stitch of the South African Ndebele tribe. The beading style is done in colorful, geometric patterns producing masterpieces which have become iconic the world over. The is usually done by a group of women sitting in circles as they bead, part of the tradition.
Beadwork is used among Ndebeles to convey meanings, social and cultural messages about the wearer's age, marital status, social status, regional of origin or tribe one belongs to, among others. Beads are an important form of identity and for beauty. Beading is important for social cohesion among Ndebeles. Today beadwork is a professional and source of livelihood for thousands of Ndebele women across the kingdom and Ndebele beads with their distinctive patterns and colours have become part of modern fashion.