Painting with Beads

"Ubuhle Women" at the Anacostia Community Museum showcases the work of a community of master beaders

At Little Farm, a former sugar plantation near Durban, women paint with beads. "Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence," a new exhibition at the Anacostia Community Museum, showcases the dazzling creations of this community of artists, living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Called Ubuhle, or "beauty" in the Xhosa language, the community was founded in 1999 by migrant worker Ntombephi "Induna" Ntobela and local resident Bev Gibson, who co-curated the exhibition. Together the Ubuhle women have developed a new take on a South African tradition: the ndwango, a fabric panel of colored glass beads. Unlike traditional beadwork, which is worn on the body, these artworks are displayed on the walls like paintings. "By stretching this textile like a canvas," writes Gibson, "the artists transform the flat cloth into a contemporary art form....."  Finish this article here