EC beading it up in Texas

CULTURAL EXCHANGE: Eastern Cape crafters created a beaded installation, pictured, in Houston, Texas. Picture: VULISANGO NDWANDWA

Local crafters were given the opportunity to showcase show off their skills in the 360 Degrees Vanishing Project (360DVP) which took place in Houston, Texas recently.

The Eastern Cape Arts and Culture Council (ECPACC), through its Eastern Cape Craft Hub subsidiary, identified expert beaders from the Amathole, Chris Hani and OR Tambo districts to go in three groups to start and finish the project.

The project is the brainchild of US artist Selven O’Keef Jarmon, who spent seven years working in the Eastern Cape where he noticed the slow “vanishing” of beading in the cultural landscape.

The project was initially geared to take place between 2014 and 2016. However, it experienced some difficulties and was restarted in 2018.

“We are very excited that a striking architectural tapestry of beads hangs above a building in Texas and will remain a permanent landmark and a testimony of the excellent artistry of the Eastern Cape crafters,” ECPACC CEO Phumeza Skoti said.

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BCM crafter Joyce Kelo was one of the beaders who took part in this ambitious cultural project.

“I spent 40 days in Texas and the project was so big that we even worked on weekends,” she said.

“The community was eager to learn about how the beadwork is done. They also showed an interest in us and where we live back home,” Kelo said.

Kelo added that the Houston community had a great spirit of ubuntu and she enjoyed her time there exploring their culture.

The beaders also took some of came with their own work which they sold in Houston.

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Kelo started beading work in 2000.

“Craftwork needs someone with patience and passion. Sometimes there is not a regular cash-flow but it has managed to sustain me and my children all these years,” she said.

Art League Houston commissioned 360DVP as a residency programme, hosting teams of artisans who worked alongside each other and transferred traditional beading skills, to, more than over 1,000 Houston volunteers. They also created hundreds of aluminium panels beautifully beaded with countless plastic beads.

“Our biggest responsibility is to make sure that skills are transferred to crafters in ways that have a greater contemporary appeal to the market, while preserving the rich heritage of beads,” said Eastern Cape Craft Hub manager Vulisango Ndwandwa.

There are still some remaining panels in Houston that need to be beaded and ECPACC is looking for partners to bring them to SA to hopefully adorn local buildings.

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