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My Sea, My Sister, My Tears-ubuhle-african-beads-artwork-smithsonian-art-internationally-acclaimedMy sea, my Sister My tears
Ntombephi Ntobela

This innovative change in the traditions of South African beadwork first occurred in 1999 when co-founder of the Ubuhle community, Ntombephi ‘Induna’ Ntobela, starting sewing loose beads onto black fabric for her own pleasure. From these humble beginnings the ndwango as an artform slowly grew.

Ubuhle Beautiful Beads was established by Ntombephi Ntobela and Bev Gibson in 1999. The aim of Ubuhle was to create employment for local women, by using traditional skills to create products of excellence. Ubuhle offered a safe environment where these women could use beading as a means of securing their own financial independence. Working with her sisters and other members of the Ntobela clan, Ntombephi trained women in the art of beading so that they too could use these skills to become financially independent.

Since 2006 Ubuhle has lost five artists to illness. Their presence in the community is still strongly felt and their artworks continue to serve as a source of inspiration to the living artists. Many masterpieces by Ubuhle artists who have passed away have been secured for future generations in the Ubuhle Collection. A number of the artworks currently produced thus function as memorials to Ubuhle artists who have lost their lives.