Material Culture http://materialculture.com Store, Auction House, Café Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:29:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Padmini Boutique at Material Culture Holiday Sale http://materialculture.com/padmini-boutique-holiday-sale/ http://materialculture.com/padmini-boutique-holiday-sale/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:53:02 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15955

Holiday Sale at Padmini boutique:
Holiday Gifts from Nepal and India

Winter Gloves and hats. New leggings and sweaters.
Tribal bags with antique embroidery and leather, tribal runners and zari purses and clutches. Vintage hand stitched jackets. Hand made gifts and
Much More! 20% – 40% Off!

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Seeking Quality Consignments for The Collector’s Eye, March 8 http://materialculture.com/seeking-quality-consignments-for-the-collectors-eye-march-8/ http://materialculture.com/seeking-quality-consignments-for-the-collectors-eye-march-8/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 21:40:20 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15940 We are currently seeking consignments for our upcoming auction of Fine, Folk, Self-Taught and Ethnographic Arts

Auction: Sunday, March 8, 2015, 10am est
Consignments accepted until January 31

Learn about selling at Material Culture auctions
or Contact a specialist

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Invitation to Consign | Asian Arts, Antique Oriental Rugs and Textiles http://materialculture.com/consignment-invitation-asian-arts-antique-oriental-rugs-textiles-auction/ http://materialculture.com/consignment-invitation-asian-arts-antique-oriental-rugs-textiles-auction/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 16:05:26 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15907 We are currently seeking consignments for our upcoming auction of Asian Arts, Antique Oriental Rugs and Textiles

Auction: Sunday, March 22, 2015, 10am est
Consignments accepted until February 6

Learn about selling at Material Culture auctions
or Contact a specialist

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December 7th Sunday Seasonal Buffet Snapshots http://materialculture.com/december-7th-sunday-buffet-snapshots/ http://materialculture.com/december-7th-sunday-buffet-snapshots/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 21:25:11 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15863 Snapshots from Aliza Green’s Seasonal Buffet, December 7th, 2014. IMG_5850 IMG_5841 IMG_5840 IMG_5842 IMG_5845 IMG_5844 IMG_5824 IMG_5802 IMG_5739 IMG_5748 IMG_5889 IMG_5771 IMG_5735 IMG_5827 IMG_5761 IMG_5753 ]]> http://materialculture.com/december-7th-sunday-buffet-snapshots/feed/ 0 Winter Estates: Art, Antiques, Americana, Oriental Rugs, Asian & Decorative Arts http://materialculture.com/winter-estates-auction-dec-20th/ http://materialculture.com/winter-estates-auction-dec-20th/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 16:15:53 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15838 DecTopLots

Winter Estates: Art, Antiques, Americana, Oriental Rugs, Asian & Decorative Arts

Auction: Saturday, December 20, 2014, 10am est
Exhibition: December 18-19, 11am-5pm

Browse the Auction Catalog and Bid Live on LiveAuctioneers.com
Browse the Virtual Print Catalog
Absentee Bid Form (PDF)  | Telephone Bid Form (PDF) | Terms and Conditions (PDF)

In the middle of the holiday season, Material Culture will host a Winter Estates sale subtitled “Art, Antiques, Decorative and Ethnographic Arts.” Over 700 lots come fresh to the market in this December 20 sale, including fine art, Oriental rugs, Asian decorative arts, and American advertising, ephemera and decorative arts. With a broad range of collectibles, a fine selection of vintage postcards, antique Continental ceramics, art books, and more, the auction promises to have tempting lots for almost every kind of collector.
Fine art at the auction presents pieces in many different genres. Oil pantings on canvas, such as “Bathing Boys” (lot 29), by Indonesian painter I.W.J. Munut (b. 1941) are on offer in the sale. A color woodcut by Luigi Rist (American, 1888-1959), titled “We Repeat (Still life with Radishes)” (lot 400) is charming with a hint of the surreal. Sculpture is led by a Curtis Jere tabletop sculpture of birds, rendered in bronze, flying upwards from a marble base (lot 37). A selection of photography includes two works by Jeanneatte Montgomery Barron (American, b. 1954)—“Los Angeles (Still Life),” dated 1987 and “Francesco Clemente’s Studio N.Y.C.,” dated 1988 (lot 457).

Over fifty lots of Oriental carpets are led by a large antique Bakhshaish rug from late 19th century Persia (lot 51) and another sizeable Persian Serapi carpet from circa 1900 (lot 52). Smaller, though of extremely fine quality, is an Eagle rug from the Caucasus (lot 45), also dating to circa 1900. Asian decorative arts are extremely well-represented in a rich variety of ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, panels, embroideries, prints and more. Two Japanese censers made of bronze (lot 15) date to the Meiji period (1868-1912), a gorgeous Chinese balustrade form vase shines with the deep blood-red of sang de boeuf or flambe glaze (lot 151), and a Chinese gilded bronze Buddha (lot 200) is just one of many graceful and finely-detailed figural pieces.

One highlight of the auction is a true wealth of antique and 20th century European ceramics, led by several pieces of majolica ceramics. The Italian variety of this tin-glazed pottery, called maiolica, is represented by three very fine antique pieces. A molded dish on a raised foot is an excellent example of an ‘istoriato,’ or history plate, featuring a depiction of Apollo and the Muses after a Raphael painting (lot 13). Portraits of a young man and a young woman with a crown adorn a large albarello drug jar, probably made in Venice or Caltagirone (lot 289). A pair of similar tin-glazed apothecary jars, but from 18th century France, bear a reserve panel with the intended contents written in Latin (lot 290). Dozens of ceramic figures from France, Italy, Germany, and Czechoslovakia are brought forward in this sale, including several for the Italian Capidomonte porcelain company, by Carmelo Ganci (lot 364) and Tiziano Galli (lot 370).

American decorative arts at the sale also feature notable ceramics, including a beautiful early 20th century stoneware vase made by the Pewabic Pottery studio of Detroit, Michigan (lot 14). A Reed and Barton vermeil tea service, marked 1872 and crafted in the aesthetic movement style of that time period, contains a teapot, a creamer, a lidded canister and a samovar (lot 304).

Nearly 1000 vintage and antique postcards are grouped into approximately 30 lots. An estate from Allentown, Pennsylvania provides a museum-sized collection of French, European and American risqué cards, from a group of ten French Victorian-era silver gelatin emulsion photographic postcards of a model undressing in her boudoir (lot 10), to a lot of 160 American mid-century pin-ups and bathing beauties (lot 536).

A variety of vintage items featuring pin-up girls are also brought forward, including a lot of Marilyn Monroe Norma Jean artifacts, with three calendars from 1955 and a silver gelatin photograph of the nude Monroe (lot 24). A 1948 “Nifty Numbers” calendar (lot 525) features the artwork of Earl Moran (1893-1984), an American pin-up and glamour artist. Fourteen vintage “Tijuana Bibles” are grouped in a single lot (565); these small pornographic comic books often put a licentious twist on characters from popular culture and newspaper strips, and titles in this lot include “Laurel and Hardy in The Girlfriend,” “Tyrone Power in The Rescue,” “Henry,” and “The Adventures of a Fuller Brush Man.” In other ephemera, seven lots of vintage American advertising fans include a Shirley Temple Royal Crown Soda fan (lot 514) and a group of twelve from the early 20th century (lot 515) with artistic, patriotic and political images, such as a portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The auction offers a wide field of collectibles, opening with an antique cast-iron grave marker for a member of the Odd Fellows fraternal society (lot 1). A commemorative John Wayne Winchester model 94 rifle remains in its original box (lot 7). Ten lots of antique daggers include a Caucasian dagger with a silver repousse and leather decorated sheath (lot 6) and an Ottoman or Persian dagger measuring 27 inches long (lot 121).  A pre-Columbian chieftan figure made of Tumbaga gold is rendered holding a scepter and a chicken, with detailed finery and a flame-shaped crown (lot 131). An impressive calcite crystal geode measures 14 by 15 by 8 inches (lot 34).

Closing the sale are twenty lots of quality art reference books, but one item is of particular interest as a publication and work of art in its own right. Jasper Johns’ “Target 1970” was produced in conjunction with the MOMA’s exhibition “Technics and Creativity: Gemini G.E.L.” The exhibition was a selection of prints and multiples such as Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella and others, and each catalogue for the show was accompanied by a specially-commissioned multiple by Jasper Johns. The offset lithograph is accompanied by three watercolor disks and a paintbrush, inviting the owner to collaborate with Johns by painting a version of his “Target” (lot 700).

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Promoting Peace Through Art http://materialculture.com/promoting-peace-through-art/ http://materialculture.com/promoting-peace-through-art/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 18:13:54 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15778 Material Culture Presents: The Afghan Peace Rug Project

afgan-peace-rugFor the past 30 years, Afghan war rugs have been highly valued and internationally collected as pieces of modern folk art. These rugs, woven by Afghan village artisans since 1979 following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, depict images of the wars and conflict that have been a trademark of this country for the past three decades.

In an effort to both revitalize the Afghan economy and reshape its image from one of war to one of peace, Material Culture has partnered with a group of village rug producers in Afghanistan to launch the Peace Rug Project.

Working with the same village artisans who have been weaving images of tanks, guns and hand grenades for years, the Peace Rug Project has challenged these artisans to leave behind this imagery and weave instead images of peace. Small, folk-art sized wool carpets using natural dyes and depicting images of flowers, birds, animals, village life, and all manner of personal expression, have begun to emerge from Afghan villages and Material Culture is proud to bring them to the international market. This series of unique, one of a kind rugs, each depicting the weaver’s vision of the peaceful Afghanistan all hope will emerge from the conflict, aspires to promote peace by changing people’s image of the country and stimulate the economy by replacing “war rug” collecting with “peace rug” collecting.

View the Gallery and Sale Prices

Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'7" x 4'3" #312033	Reg: $1,550 Sale: $930 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 4'1" x 5'11" #312044	Reg: $2,400 Sale: $1,440 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 4'10" x 6'11" #316699	Reg $2,750 Sale: $1,650 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'5" x 3'1" #316702	Reg: $775 Sale: $465 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'0" x 4'1" #316704	Reg: $1,175 Sale: $705 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'1" x 4'0" #316705	Reg: $1,250 Sale: $750 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'11" x 3'7" #316710	Reg: $975 Sale: $585 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'0" x 3'8" #316711	Reg: $1,350 Sale: $810 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'7" x 3'6" #316716	Reg: $875 Sale: $525 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'1" x 3'1" #316721	Reg: $650 Sale: $390 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'5" x 3'1" #316722	Reg: $735 Sale: $441 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'11" x 3'0" #316724	Reg: $875 Sale: $525 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'1" x 3'0" #316726	Reg: $600 Sale: $360 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'2" x 2'6" #316727	Reg: $575 Sale: $345 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'1" x 2'5" #316728	Reg: $575 Sale: $345 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'0" x 3'5" #316733	Reg: $1,050 Sale: $630 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'10" x 5'8" #316734	Reg: $2,150 Sale: $1,290 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 6'1" x 8'11" #316736	Reg: $5,250 Sale: $3,150 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 5'8" x 8'6" #316738	Reg: $4,250 Sale: $2,550 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 6'7" x 9'8" #316739	Reg: $6,500 Sale: $3,900 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 6'6" x 9'7" #316740	Reg: $5,930 Sale: $3,558 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'5" x 3'7" #321945	Reg: $830 Sale: $498 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 4'3" x 6'0" #321946	Reg: $2,500 Sale: $1,500 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'1" x 4'4" #321947	Reg: $1,200 Sale: $720 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'7" x 4'7" #321948	Reg: $1,600 Sale: $960 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'5" x 2'11" #321949	Reg: $700 Sale: $420 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'1" x 3'0" #321950	Reg: $600 Sale: $360 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 4'2" x 6'11" #321953	Reg: $2,700 Sale: $1,620 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'11" x 3'5" #321956	Reg: $970 Sale: $582 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 4'1" x 5'11" #321957	Reg: $2,650 Sale: $1,590 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 1'9" x 3'2" #321962	Reg: $550 Sale: $330 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 1'8" x 3'3" #321963	Reg: $560 Sale: $336 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'0" x 4'2" #321965	Reg: $1,200 Sale: $720 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 3'1" x 4'5" #321967 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 1'8" x 3'4" #321969	Reg: $500 Sale: 300 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 1'8" x 3'0" #321970	Reg: $510 Sale: $306 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 1'9" x 3'3" #321971	Reg: $560 Sale: $336 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 2'11" x 3'8" #321973	Reg: $1,100 Sale: $660 Afghan Peace Rug: A Unique Artistic Work, Natural Dyes, Hand-knotted, Hand-spun Wool Yarn. Dimensions: 1'8" x 3'0" #321964	Reg: $550 Sale: $330 ]]>
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Aliza Green’s Seasonal Buffet http://materialculture.com/aliza-greens-seasonal-buffet/ http://materialculture.com/aliza-greens-seasonal-buffet/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 17:38:11 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15751

Baba Olga’s Café Presents Aliza Green’s Seasonal Buffet! Sunday December 21st Menu Noon-3pm BYOB

Buffet:

  • Honey-Roasted Bosc Pear Salad; mixed greens, fennel, toasted walnuts,
    Cabrales blue cheese & pomegranate dressing
  • Shaved Local Brussels Sprouts Salad with Toasted Walnuts & Parmigiano-Reggiano,
    Lemon, Garlic & Extra Virgin Olive Oil Dressing
  • Brioche French Toast with Pennsylvania Maple Syrup (vegetarian)
  • Frittata with Sweet Corn, Fire-Roasted Red Peppers & Jalapenos
    Mexican Mole Verde (green tomatillo, cilantro & pumpkin seed sauce)
  • Crispy North Country Bacon
  • Cuban Turkey Picadillo: tomato, cumin, currants, almonds, green olives
  • Yukon Gold Potato & Celery Root Gratin: California garlic & thyme
  • Pennsylvania Proud Beef & Wild Mushroom Meatballs in Tomato Cacciatore Sauce
  • Medjadra: farro & French green lentils, caramelized shallots, coriander & cumin seed
  • Wild Salmon Cakes with Tarragon-Caper Rémoulade Sauce

Dessert

  • Carrot-Ginger Cake with Pineapple, Pistachios & Coconut; Cream Cheese Icing
  • Pear, Raspberry & Almond Frangipane Puff Pastry Tart
  • Fruit Macedonia with Spearmint

Beverages

  • Jamaican Hibiscus Blossom & Spearmint Iced Tea
  • Small World Brewed Coffee /Assorted Mighty Leaf Teas
  • Filtered sparkling & still water

$24.00 per person; half-price for children 12 and under, BYOB Please note that a 15% gratuity will be added to the check for parties of 6 or more

Please Make Your Reservation for Sunday, December 21st

[contact-form-7] ]]>
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The Peacebomb Collection at Material Culture http://materialculture.com/the-peacebomb-collection/ http://materialculture.com/the-peacebomb-collection/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 14:18:38 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15717 The Peacebomb collection by ARTICLE 22, a jewelry line designed from weapons of mass destruction, is now on sale at Material Culture and will be featured in our “Give Peace” for the Holidays event on December 14th

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ARTICLE 22 has been recognized by global consumers and press as pioneering the transformation of weapons to jewelry and, more generally, the tangible value of transformation through fashion.

Driven dually by design and development, ARTICLE 22 cultivates the untapped talents of artisans in forgotten or off-the-beaten-track places, promoting entrepreneurship and community development.

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  • ARTICLE 22 designs beautiful and meaningful collections that tell unknown stories and give back.
  • PEACEBOMB, the first collection, is jewelry made from Vietnam War era bombs by Laotian artisans.
  • ARTICLE 22 seeks to embody a new luxury that intimately relates our objects and ideas.

As appropriate, additional giveback benefits a broader cause. For PEACEBOMB, each bracelet sold demines 3m2 of bomb littered land. The collections are composed of modern artifacts with a distinct hand feel. They are designed for those concerned by authenticity and quality, those curious to discover.

Article 22 “I Love Peace” bangles are currently featured in the “My Favorite Things”  holiday gift promotion giveaway to 10 lucky winners, sponsored by the Philadelphia Daily News (click for details)

Buying Back the Bombs from ARTICLE 22

Visit ARTICLE 22 website

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November 22nd Supper Club Snapshots http://materialculture.com/november-22nd-supper-club-snapshots/ http://materialculture.com/november-22nd-supper-club-snapshots/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 08:36:13 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15609 We’d like to thank everyone who helped make our Supper Club on November 22nd a great time for all who attended! ]]> http://materialculture.com/november-22nd-supper-club-snapshots/feed/ 0 Exhibition: Currency and Costume in Pre-Colonial Africa, November 22, 2014 – February 28, 2015 http://materialculture.com/currency-costume-pre-colonial-africa-exhibition/ http://materialculture.com/currency-costume-pre-colonial-africa-exhibition/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 15:28:30 +0000 http://materialculture.com/?p=15470

Exhibition, November 22nd-February 28th, 2015

Selections from the Isabella de la Houssaye and David Crane Collection

The population of Africa is one of the most diverse in the world with more than 3000 distinct ethnic groups and over 2100 spoken languages. Prior to colonization, each of these ethnic groups had distinct customs and artistic traditions that were reflected in both their costume and currency. Although these ethnic groups are now organized into “countries” and many have adopted western dress and traditions, to truly understand the political and cultural history of Africa you have to have some understanding of the different ethnic groups that populate these countries. This exhibition attempts to illustrate visually through items of traditional costume and currency the differences and similarities among many of these African ethnic groups. It examines how artistic and cultural traditions informed the costume and currency of the different tribes while also exploring what the costume and currency communicated about the people who wore/used it.

King’s Mantle, Yoruba, Nigeria Grand Boubou and Boubou, Yoruba, Nigeria; Beaded Aprons, Tsonga, Zimbabwe; Wax print wrappers, Malawi Woman’s Armlet/Anklet Currency, Yoruba, Nigeria Beaded Belt for either man or woman (Umutsha), Zulu, South Africa

Prior to trade with the Europeans, traditional costume was made primarily from materials at hand—leather from animals, hand-woven textiles, textiles made from natural fibers, feathers and seeds, and objects fabricated from metals. The use of beads to make and adorn costume in Africa was the result of trade with the Europeans that dates to the 1500s. The Europeans used the glass beads as ballast in slave/trade ships for the outbound trip and then traded them for human cargo as well as ivory, gold and other goods desired in Europe. Trade beads became a highly valued currency in Africa because of the value African people placed on decorative items. The beads were subsequently used by many ethnic groups across the continent to embellish clothing, jewelry and other cultural objects and communicate wealth and status. Each ethnic group developed its own style and language around beads such that beadwork became a means of identifying different African cultures and identifying individuals within each culture. For instance, in the Yoruba culture, beadwork was reserved for members of royalty. In other cultures, certain types of beadwork were reserved for married women and in others only for men. Whole mythologies grew up around beads as well. For instance, in the Masai culture, the colors of the beads had great importance. Blue represents the sky and therefore God, green, the grass, a sacred element revered because it nourishes their cattle, red symbolizes the blood of the cattle and white their milk. Interestingly, the Christian missionaries who settled in Africa tried to counter the spiritual importance of beads by preaching that beads were the tools of the devil. They worked vigorously to end many of the customs associated with beadwork ornamentation. To this day in South Africa you can distinguish which villages had mission settlements and which did not by whether the beadwork traditions of the indigenous peoples survive.

Beaded Wedding Apron worn by Ndebele Women (Jocolo), Ndebele, South Africa Beaded leather Masai Cape pictured with Masai earrings, necklaces and headpiece, Masai, Kenya/Tanzania Moroccan Waterman Costume; Berber Djellaba, Morocco Collection of Ndebele Costumes, South Africa; Kente Cloth, Ashanti, Ghana, Bark Cloth and Kuba Cloth, Democratic Republic of Congo

While “trade beads” were widely used as currency following the arrival of the Europeans, a variety of objects made in metal as well as cowrie shells were used as currency prior to their arrival. Unlike coin and paper currency of today that draws its value from the government institution that issues it, items of currency in pre-colonial Africa were valued first as items of either spiritual, decorative or practical import and it was this value that then rendered them worthy of acting as “currency”. For instance, the cowrie shell was prized because it symbolized fertility and was thought to offer protection from evil. It is because it was thought to have such powers that it was subsequently designated an acceptable currency. Similarly, the hoe was prized for its practical value in agricultural societies in Africa to such a degree that it was deemed to be acceptable currency. While the cowrie beads were used in every day trade, many of the early metal African currencies were used only to “purchase” large items such as houses, brides, or slaves. Many of the currency bracelets were used only as dowry pieces to show the wealth of the man getting married. The heavier the bracelet worn by the woman the less able she would be to work and so the wealthier she must be. Interestingly, in the height of the slave trade, European countries were producing metal currencies that mimicked the African made metal currencies and using such currencies to trade in Africa for slaves. With the rise of influence of the colonial powers and the emergence of “countries” in Africa in the late 1800s the currencies issued by the colonial powers and the new African countries became more accepted and use of the traditional currencies diminished. While the use of traditional currencies in transactions is practically unheard of today, its symbolic importance and use in important village and family ceremonies is alive and well.

Kente Cloth wrappers worn by both men and women, Ewe, Ghana; Khosa collars worn by both men and women, Khosa, South Africa; Masai headpiece, Kenya/Tanzania. Beaded apron, Kirdi, Cameroon Sotho Girl’s Apron, South Africa Ndebele Woman’s Blanket, South Africa ]]>
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