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

previous series.

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

is changing.

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.