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Title: A critical evaluation of cloth bead sculptures made by rural female artists in Kwazulu Natal (1970 to 1999)
Authors: Khanyile, Isaac Nkosinathi
Issue Date: 2002
Cloth bead sculptures are art objects made by female artists from cloth, beads, wood, wire and other materials that are stitched by hand. They are freestanding representations of the human figure, animals and inanimate objects and have traditionally been important ritual, as well as aesthetic, objects in Zulu communal life. The research for this dissertation was based on qualitative methods which brought together information from the women discussing their life and work. These discussions with individuals and groups looked at the women's own explanations of their work, including its traditional, ritual and communicative functions in rural Kwa Zulu Natal. They also discussed their experiences in selling their artwork in relation to the past discriminatory practices of apartheid South Africa, which was the context for their lives. From the 1970s some rural women brought some of these figures to Durban for sale in the streets to supplement their meagre resources. Later the African Art Centre became the main retail outlet for selling African Art and Craft and white people associated with it became the 'official' spokespersons and interpreters of such their art work. This had the consequence of depriving the rural women artists of their own voice. They were thus not able to give their own interpretation and explanation of their work. Interpretation of these sculptures in the dissertation has taken into account the traditional communicative role of bead figures and the symbolic function of colours, patterns and textures created by the beads and other materials. Cloth bead figures brought in for sale to local and international buyers always represented more than simple decorated figures to the artists themselves. Indeed these bead figures, like other works of art produced by black South Africans, became a vehicle for the
Dissertation submitted in partial compliance with the requirements for the Master's Degree in Technology: Fine Art (Sculpture), Durban Institute of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2002.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Arts and Design)

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