SA beadwork has post office stamp of approval
THE 8TH DEFINITIVE STAMP
SERIES -- The luminous beauty of
South African beadwork on stamps.
Curated by Carol Kaufmann. At
Iziko South African National Gallery
until Sunday. LUCINDA JOLLY
THIS exhibition of South African
beadwork depicted on the 8th Definitive
Stamp series was first exhibited
two years ago when it launched
the re-opening of Bertram House.
The significance of the two-year-old
stamps is twofold.
They not only celebrate traditional
art forms, but are also a world
first. Although there were drawings
of beaded work on stamps, until this
series there had never been photographs
of actual beaded works on
stamps. Photographed by Sasha
Lipka, this approach was suggested
by the previous director of Iziko
National Gallery, Marilyn Martin.
The images were taken from
beadwork in the permanent collections
of the Art and Social History
Collections departments at Iziko
Museums and indicate a move away
from flora and fauna found in the
The display ranges from traditional
beaded work such as a bright
Tsonga fertility figure, tobacco
pouches, blanket safety pins, beaded
tortoise shell containers, a beaded
cellphone and a ladybird.
Some spring from the hands of
unknown crafters, while others are
crafted by well-known artists.
The display includes work by
fine artist Tamlin Blake, who has
copied some of the first Cape
stamps, showing the figure of Hope
in subtle tonal beads in a large format.
Designed by Charles Bell, the
triangular shape was unique at the
time. Although traditionally beadwork
is considered the area of
women, and wirework of men, this
The informative panels by
anthropologist Gerald Klinghardt
tell how before glass beads became
available in the second century
through trade across the Indian
Ocean, natural objects such as
shells, bone and seeds were used.
The Khoisan women fashioned
ostrich shells into beads. From the
16th century onwards, glass beads
were available from European
The first small post office was
opened at the Castle 220 years ago,
but before that, letters were left
under stones by Dutch and English
In a sense, these stamps, like the
craftspeople who made them, are
ambassadors spreading “awareness
of these cultural treasures all over
South Africa – and the rest of the
world – at an affordable cost”, as
curator Carol Kaufman suggests.
Covet the double-row necklace of
amber-coloured, plectrum-thin simulated
lion’s claws and blood-red
A coffee table book titled The
8thDefinitive, the luminous beauty of
South African beadwork on stamps
is available from the South African
post office. The post office has copyright
on the images.
. Gallery hours at Iziko at
Government Avenue, Company’s
Garden, are from 10am to 5pm.
Call 021 481 3970.