Traditional Craft – A closer look

TRADITIONAL CRAFT- A closer look at the traditional history of South African crafts, the value and function  of practicing craft and the materials and techniques used.

Traditional craft is is part of an indigenous cultural heritage. It does not have to be updated according to latest trends.

It is made for its traditional significance and not specifically for aesthetic and/or for consumer purposes.

Traditional craft is more valuable than only it’s commercial purposes. It has  a communicating purpose. It would have to be made in a specific way if it has a status, position or message (story) within a cultural group.

Examples of traditional craft in various South African cultural groups are:

  • Basketry – Zulu, N’debele
  • Beadwork – Xhosa, Zulu or N’debele
  • Pottery – Zulu
  • Traditional Architecture – Xhosa, N’debele, Zulu
  • Crochet – English, Afrikaans
  • Wirework – Zulu

Traditional beadwork is a means of expression, communication and storytelling.

In the past, patterns and colours were woven into beadwork, symbolising feelings and ideas to lovers and friends  e.g. Zulu Love Letters. Even though there is an influx of cultures in the present day, the traditional etiquette of bead-work communication is upheld by younger generations.

The value of traditional craft for any culture is to reconnect with their cultural history and social traditions.  Traditional craft reflects the customs, heritage knowledge, historical background and identity of a cultural group. It shows who we are, where we belong and where we are going.

If we ignore our past, we have no way of finding our tomorrow.

It is a reality that most South Africans idolise and adore Western American culture but if we do not value our traditional crafts, the South Africans may end up losing their cultural roots.
The function of most of the bead work is created by women living in the rural areas of South Africa.

As human beings, they have always expressed themselves through personal decoration and that came as an expression to enhance physical appearance.

The materials, methods and processes used by the beaders show the use of different kinds of materials to take beadwork to new levels by combining traditional beadwork skill with contemporary designs.

To create jewellery and objects that delights the senses with their richness and colour. Seeds, stones, bits of bone, colourful glass beads and precious gemstones are used. The brightly coloured beads are creatively strung on cotton thread in diamond-shaped patterns in widths of three inches all around. The glass beads are usually arranged in blocks of five traditional colours (sky blue, grass green, red, black and yellow).

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