The desire to preserve indigenous customs and various forms of dress is still widespread, and even small children commonly wear beads on festive occasions in rural communities.
Some beadwork necklaces and fringed aprons are made specifically for children, usually by their mothers. But because they also wear long strings of beads and other items made for adults, children may look quaintly over-dressed.
The Rise and Demise of Different Bead Types
The use of plastic beads has become increasingly common throughout South Africa. This has led to the production of unusually boldly patterned beadwork items and the introduction of colour combinations quite unlike those found on more traditional pieces.
Throughout South Africa, plastic beadwork is now commonly worn together with items made from glass seed beads.
The growing acceptance and use of plastic beads is partly due to the fact that it is quicker to produce beadwork garments with larger beads. Other factors, such as the high cost of smaller, glass beads, also account for this development.
In most communities, the tendency to combine plastic beads with older beadwork items attest to complex, layered histories of production, ownership and use. While heirloom pieces are still valued, some people favour the bold aesthetic of plastic beadwork.
By Professor Sandra Klopper