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Sizakele Creations grew from a pilot research project into a vibrant business. Alice Tindall initiated the Sizakele Creations project in 2000 in Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga. The project formed part of a M-Tech research study in marketing strategies for community craft-projects.
In 2004, the project was re-located to Cullinan, a small tourism town in Gauteng. Cullinan is well-known as the source of the diamond in the Royal family of England’s crown jewels.
Today Sizakele Creations has seven full-time artisans, but works closely with over 50 crafters, mainly women from surrounding rural areas. Sizakele Creations promote the endeavors and products of rural women groups like Sizanani Beadwork in KwaNdebele and Le Rato Lebana. These groups do the embellishment, beadwork and embroidery on many Sizakele products.
ABOUT SIZANANI BEADWORK
Sizanani beadwork, managed by Elsie Mahlangu and Sarah Mashigo is a group of women doing Ndebele beadwork in the Siyabuswa area in Kwa Ndebele.
Ndebele beadwork is significant as it portrays cultural images of a rural women’s life. It translates her intimate relationship with her home and community. Ndebele designs depicts shapes and symbolic patterns such as houses, light bulbs or razor blades. These patterns are hand-drawn with straight lines in large scale onto the walls and is still used today, especially during initiation of young boys. Variations of these designs are beaded and form part of the Ndebele traditional attire.
Sizakele Creations have been working with the Sizanani project since 2002.
ABOUT THE NDEBELE
The Portuguese introduced glass beads to Southern Africa in the sixteenth century. The Nungi tribes traded goods for beads and beadwork became a cherished pastime for women.
The Ndebele people are descendants of the Proto-Nguni tribe in South Africa, so are the Xhosa, Swazi and the Zulu people. Factional feuding began in the sixteenth century and devastating defeats inflicted by the powerful Zulu King Shaka around 1817 and the Boers in 1837 resulted in the division of the original amaNdebele nation.
The immutable Ndebele artistic culture is rooted in maintenance of traditional tribal customs for centuries. The traditional beadwork was imitated in colourful mural decorations for which the Ndebele people are well-known.
The women still gather under the shade of a tree, inside their homes, in the heat of summer, or during the heart of winter sorting, stringing and stitching bead work. Today the beadwork resembles traditional attire and customs.
Ndebele dolls signify these customs, like an Ndebele woman wearing a linga koba or long tears that represent both her sorrow and pride of loosing her son during initiation. Young men's initiation rites are know as wela, which literally means to cross a river. During wela,women spend most of their time adoring themselves and attending ceremonies.
When girls reach puberty, they are secluded for three months. During this time, in privacy of their homes, they perfect the art of beadwork and painting.
During wedding ceremonies the women often wear a beaded wedding veil or beaded train called an inyoka. Before the wedding ceremony the bridegroom has to pay labola--normally an amount of cows--to the parents of the bride before he can marry her.
Married women usually wear a beaded apron called isiphephetu and a blanket around their shoulders.
SWAHILI IMPORTS AND SIZAKELE CREATIONS
Though we've been familiar with Sizakele for several years now, February 2009 was the first time Leslie has visited with Alice on location, had a chance to chat with Ndebele ladies and placed an order for wedding dolls.
Leslie reports that the warmth and good humor the Ndebele ladies extended to her during her visit made the dolls even more dear to her heart. She was amazed to find that, after placing the order, the ladies pulled together and produced 420 dolls before she left South Africa.
We have high hopes that these beautiful and meaningful icons of Ndebele culture will continue to grow in popularity and that we can continue developing new products with Sizakele in the years ahead.