national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, November 18, 2017


(Magozane Khuzwayo, Umtshebhe (Necklace). Glass bead & fibre, width 15.8 cm)

Well worth a visit. (Review by Janet Whelan)

November 12, 2017, heralded the start of an exhibition, The Secrets of Beads Imfihlo Yobuhlalu, at the Durban Art Gallery.

The exhibition was opened by the curators, Anthea Martin and Hlengiwe Dube. Thereafter, Hlengiwe conducted a very informative tour of the items on display, explaining the meaning of the different colours and colour combinations. She also offered some detail on the uses and meanings of various items themselves.

Dr M Mduduzi Xakaza, in his forward to the catalogue, states “beadwork has always been used not only as communication tool but also as a currency of trade” by the Zulu community and that “beadwork played a role in the definition of social prestige and hierarchy.”

Today beadwork is worn mainly for decoration, but originally it was worn to indicate marital status and on special occasions such as weddings, funerals and coming of age ceremonies. Beadwork was also used in courtship and the love letter (umgexo) frequently contained a personal secret message known only to the lovers.

The exhibition is divided into sections containing horn and love letter necklaces, belts, aprons, body decorations, beaded dolls from the different regions and including fertility dolls, soft sculptures and pot covers. There is also a section on necklaces for men and women using traditional colour arrangements.

The exhibition runs at the Durban Art Gallery until April 29, 2018, and is well worth a visit.

The Durban Art Gallery is situated on the second floor of the Durban City Hall, entrance in Anton Lembede (formerly Smith) Street opposite the Playhouse. More information on 031 311 2262/6. - Janet Whelan