Fashion From Around The World: Explore The Deep Cultural Roots Of Zulu Beadwork

Feb 04, 2021
04:24 A.M.
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There are fashion influences from all over the world in modern fashion. Vibrant colors, patterns, textures, and beads are elements from multiple cultures and are adored globally.


People around the world have been finding influences from each other for centuries now. Different cultures impact how we eat, speak, and even how we dress in our modern contexts.

In fashion, we’ve seen the use of vibrant beadwork more often these days, referencing African cultures. Read more to explore the roots of this exquisite beadwork that originates from South African cultures.

The History Of South African Beadwork


If you visit any museum that explores South African history, you will likely see a collection of beadwork. These beads have a rich history and symbolize several stories, emotions, and identifiers beyond looking attractive.

Africans first made beads with natural materials such as neutral colored shells, bones, and seeds. Traders then brought glass beads that prompted the intricate beadwork techniques we see today.

Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

The glass beads from Europe became popular in Southern Africa, prompting them to cater to African tastes. Glass beads soon took on various colors and patterns, making them prized possessions.


More Than Beauty


Vibrant and colorful glass beads became prized items that were sought out after by many Africans. The small popular seed-like beads resulted in incredibly detailed creations from Southern African artisans.

South African beadwork is a thing of beauty, but it also carries a rich heritage with all of its purposes. Women used their beadwork skills to communicate so much more than an attractive appearance.

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Some beadwork pieces can even imply things about a wearer’s age, regional origin, and marital status. These days one is likely to identify equally beautiful and bold beads from Zulu, Xhosa, and Ndebele tribes.


A New Language


The decorative designs in South African beadwork have appeared in modern fashion globally. Beyonce recently featured numerous bead accessories in her outfits for her appearances in ‘Black Is King’.

‘Black Is King’ explores various conversations about African culture and identity through cinema. This representation is also incorporated in the costume, proving the significance of the meanings conveyed by beadwork.


Colors are used to convey messages in Zulu beadwork, such as yellow signifying wealth. Beadwork creates a language passed down through generations, which is phenomenal to see in the modern context.

Nowadays, you can find beads with numerous designs, colors, and in the form of different accessories. South African stars wear them on red carpets and music videos to communicate pride and beauty to the world.

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