The Unique Aspect of Zulu Beadwork
Beaded feature of traditional Wedding Blanket.
Traditional Zulu beadwork is often worn by Zulu women today as an affirmation of their cultural heritage. Their colorful beadwork is unique because of the eloquent way in which messages dealing with male-female relationships are traditionally woven into designs.
Ndebele beadwork often sold on the streets and pavements of Pretoria and Johannesburg, is well known. Traditionally, certain beaded items were worn to distinguish young girls from their elder sisters, to identify girls to be engaged or to be married, or to celebrate weddings and the birth of first children. Among the Xhosa of the Transkei, special beadwork is used to differentiate age and peer groups but distinctive decorative adornment is reserved for the bride, groom and their special guests at their wedding.
What makes Zulu beadwork unique, is the code by which particular colors are selected and combined in various decorative geometrical designs in order to convey messages. The geometric shapes themselves have particular significance and the craft itself forms a language devoted entirely to the expression of ideas, feelings, and facts related to behavior and relations between the sexes. Zulu love letters, an old art of sending messages through the skilled use of colors in a piece of beadwork is fast dying out. However, much is known and recorded about the skill of combining colors and designs. Moreover, these traditions persist in the form of products for sale. Zulu love letters and jewellery have been revived and tweaked in the form of commercial contemporary jewelry brooches and socially conscious items like HIV/AIDS pins.