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Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence

  • The Dayton Art Institute 456 Belmonte Park North Dayton, OH, 45405 United States (map)

Image: Thando Ntobela, Ankoli Bull, 2013, Glass beads sewn onto fabric. Private Collection.

The DAI’s summer exhibition, Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence, showcases a new form of bead art, the ndwango (“cloth”), developed by a community of women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The black fabric on which the Ubuhle women work is reminiscent of the Xhosa headscarves and skirts which many of them grew up wearing. Using skills handed down through generations, and working in their own unique style—“directly from the soul,” according to artist Ntombephi Ntobela—the women create abstract as well as figurative subjects for their ndwangos. Ubuhle means “beauty” in the Xhosa and Zulu languages, and it describes the shimmering quality of light on lass that has a particular spiritual significance for the Xhosa people.