Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence showcases a new form of textile art known as ndwango, developed by a community of women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Established in 1999 by two women—Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela and Bev Gibson—on a former sugar plantation, the Ubuhle [pronounced Uh-Buk-lay] began as a way of creating employment for rural women combining traditional skills—like beadwork—and making them profitable.
Ubuhle means “beauty” in the Xhosa [Ho-Sa] and Zulu languages and describes the shimmering quality of light on glass, which has a particular spiritual significance for the Xhosa people. By stretching textile (ndwango) like a canvas, the artists transform the flat cloth into a contemporary art form colored with Czech glass beads. The artwork provides an emotional outlet for a community affected by HIV/AIDS and low employment, as well as a route for financial independence for the artists.
Ubhule Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence was developed by the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, DC in cooperation with Curators Bev Gibson, Ubuhle Beads, and James Green, and is organized for tour by International Arts and Artists.
Image: Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela, "My Sea, My Sister, My Tears", 2011. Glass beads sewn onto fabric. 24 x 24 ⅜ inches