The beadwork worn by South Sotho initiates on their return to the community is generally given to them by their mothers. Although today it is less common to find women who practise this art form, some still make the beadwork items worn by their sons.
It is extremely labour intensive to fashion beadwork garments using small seed beads. Because few women still have either the time or the skill to produce items like these, many pieces are made by beadwork specialists.
Most South Sotho women wear richly decorated grass masks during their initiation into adult status. Although these masks are still adorned in a wide variety of beadwork patterns and colours, many modern examples are covered in brightly coloured tufts of wool. This can be ascribed to the fact that young women seldom choose to learn the complex art of beadwork today.
By Professor Sandra Klopper