Last Updated: May 31, 2018     Views: 102

Xhosa Seed Bead Necklace, Europe (beads),        
South Africa (assembled), 1900-1999. 79.3.69        

I'm attaching a bibliography of books and other materials on the history of beads and beadmaking that I hope will be helpful to you. You might be particularly interested in the book Beads and Bead Makers: Gender, Material Culture, and Meaning, edited by Lidia D. Sciama and Joanne B. Eicher, which looks at women's labor relating to the manufacture of beads. The Museum had a show on glass beads, Life on a String: 35 Centuries of the Glass Bead, which may provide some examples and information. You can view the Exhibition info, an article about the topic, and the press release for the exhibition. There is also an article titled Women, Beadwork and Bodies: The Making and Marking of Migrant Liminality in South Africa, 1850–1950, which analyzes the use of beadwork in rural South Africa.

While it's a modern example, our Contemporary Art + Design Wing also has a piece called the Continuous Mile by Liza Lou, which features beadwork done by a team of Zulu women and took more than a year to make. "It is a work about work, about process, about finding meaning in the everyday, and about managing many hands to create something that could not be made by one person alone." You can read more about the piece on our CMOG blog, which features an interview with the artist. 

If you wish to borrow copies of library items, please contact your local library. The Rakow Research Library will lend designated books from its collection and will send copies of articles requested by other libraries. Your library can request items through the OCLC WorldShare Interlibrary Loan (ILL) system or by direct request through email at For more information, please see our ILL website.

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