past exhibition

Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence

March 23–June 10, 2019

Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela, My Sea, My Sister, My Tears, 2011, glass beads sewn onto fabric, Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence showcases a new form of bead art, the ndwango (“cloth”), developed by a community of women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-NatalSouth Africa. Using skills passed down through generations and working “directly from the soul” (in the words of artist Ntombephi Ntobela), the Ubuhle women have created a multidimensional, contemporary art form by applying exquisite Czech glass beads onto plain black cloth, reminiscent of the Xhosa headscarves and skirts that many of the Ubuhle women wore growing up.

Ubuhle (pronounced Uh-Buk-lay) means “beauty” in the Xhosa and Zulu languages, and aptly describes the quality of light on glass that for the Xhosa people has a special spiritual significance. From every vantage point, the meticulous skill and labor that went into each work becomes strikingly apparent. A single panel can take more than 10 months to complete.

Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence was developed by the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, D.C., in cooperation with Curators Bev Gibson, Ubuhle Beads, and James Green, and is organized for tour by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.

The Currier Museum’s presentation of this exhibition is generously supported by the Susan Strickler Exhibition Fund.

Additional support from Nixon Peabody | Julie and Phil Taub


Explore the exhibition brochure here, and a video about the artists below. Both were produced by the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, D.C.

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past exhibitions

Archived material on past exhibitions can be explored further here, and recent past exhibition catalogues are available through the museum shop.

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