Tribes of Africa

Back to Out of Africa  Home


The origin of the South African Ndebele tribe is not very clear; they have been recognized as one of the Nguni tribes. The Nguni tribes form almost two thirds of South Africa’s Black inhabitants. As such they are divided into four specific groups; the Central Nguni (Zulu-speaking), the Southern Nguni (Xhosa-speaking), the Swazi people from Swaziland and adjacent areas and the Ndebele people of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga.

Ndebele women traditionally decorated themselves with a variety of ornaments, each representing her status in society. For example, after her marriage, her attire is far more elaborate. In earlier times, the Ndebele wife would wear copper and brass rings around her arms, legs and neck, symbolizing her bond and devotion to her husband, once her home was built. The Ndebele bead work is intricate and time consuming to create. It requires a deft hand and keen eyesight. Over the generations this hand-craft has been practiced by women after their daily work was done. Today, however, many items are produced for selling to the general public.

The Ndebele stitch is known in the western world today as "herringbone stitch", since the direction in which the beads lie resembles the bones of a fish. Home  Out of Africa


Africa is home to hundreds of tribes, all of whom have a rich culture of traditional crafts and artifacts. In South Africa, one of the largest tribal groupings is the Nguni, and amongst the best known of these is the Zulu tribe. Zulu are best known for their intricate and often spectacular bead work, even though they do produce a large variety of other types of artifacts. Beads have been worn by the Zulu tribes since ancient times. These were made of locally available materials such as bones; ostrich egg shell, various stones, seeds and metal.

As urbanization has increased throughout Africa, many beaded items for everyday use, are produced today for tourism. Many of these are made of cheap plastic beads. However, the best quality modern Zulu bead work is made almost exclusively of tiny glass beads (known as seed beads). These beads are not made by the Zulu. Their availability and use has its roots in trade between ancient African nations. What makes Zulu bead work unique is the code by which particular colors are combined into various patterns to create messages that are stitched into beautiful geometrical designs. Both the colors and the shapes have particular meanings assigned to them. In this way Zulu bead work provides an intricate method of communication which is devoted entirely to the expression of ideas, feelings and matters relating to relations between men and women.

Zulu bead work is designed and created exclusively by tribal women, but is worn by both sexes – This means that any bead work worn by a man has been made for him by a woman. In this way, beaded items can be used to facilitate communication between unrelated males and females. It can provide a means of avoiding the awkwardness of initiating direct contact on the sensitive subject of personal relations.

Men normally wear bead work to show commitment to a particular woman, who they plan marry. This means that female family members would never give their male family members beaded gifts, since this would imply an incestuous relationship.

Sadly as the Zulu people become increasingly urbanized, the traditional associations of bead work have been lost. Modern bead work tends to be made for sale rather than for personal use. The colors used today represent popular demand, rather than the symbolic meanings.

The Zulu bracelet that you’ll see in Amanda’s Designs collection is based on the original Zulu design that has been dated to at least 100 years ago. It is hand stitched using tiny glass beads, as was done by tribal Zulu of old. Home  Out of Africa

The Pondo

Pondoland is named after the Pondo people. This is the area of South Africa that includes the South Eastern seaboard of Cape Province. The Pondo people speak Xhosa, a language spoken by approximately 18% of South Africa’s population. Although the Pondo speak Xhosa, the Pondo people are in fact the descendants of refugees who fled from the north several hundred years ago.

Even though the Pondo people have incorporated some modern innovations, their lives remain relatively unchanged from that of four or five hundred years ago. They still live in their round, thatched houses. These are still built with the doorway to the east so as to catch the first rays of sunlight each morning. They create incredible craft work, including ‘Pondo baskets’ and awesome bead work. Traditional colors are very important to the Pondo. You’ll find that pale blue is the dominating color in celebratory clothing for adults, and red or orange for children. The style of beading known as "Pondo stitch" was first found amongst antique bead work that was made by the Pondo tribe. This stitch has since been found in work made by other peoples at various times. Home  Out of Africa


Macramé is the ancient craft of knotting in geometric patterns to create a wide range of creative arts, without the use of needles or hooks. The term "macramé" is Arabic in origin, meaning 'fringe'. The art of macramé dates back to the thirteenth century when the Arabian weavers would knot the extra threads at the edges of loomed fabric.

The history of macramé can be traced to the early fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when this craft was practiced in France and Italy. The patterned knotted fabrics created out of macramé craft were used in churches for vestments and altar cloths in early days. This craft became popular among the British during the 19th century.
Legend has it that the North American sailors spent long hours aboard ships practicing macramé square knots and hitch knots. These sailors made fringes for wheels and bell covers, netting and screens. Over the years this art and craft fell to disuse.

Today macramé craft has regained its immense popularity, since its revival in the sixties, with the ‘hippie movement’. Today macramé has become an art unto its self. It is often made in combination of various beads made of glass, wood, pendants or shells. Home  Out of Africa

Back to Out of Africa

Copyright © 2014 Amanda's Designs
Pay with paypalPayPal
Websites Design, Development and SEO
Dynamic Internet Sites Developer