Between the Beads — Reading African Beadwork

The Harn Museum of Art, in Gainesville, Florida, looks to have an amazing collection of African beadwork.  They have beaded objects that are used in everyday life, and objects for ceremonial use.  “These objects demonstrate ingenious strategies used to communicate ideas with beads. Some works express highly complex ideas through subtly configured colors and patterns, and others employ representational imagery.” “The beaded art objects in this exhibition can only begin to suggest the versatility of beadwork in communicating cultural and personal meaning, and can only hint at the length of the time span that beads have been one of the most prevalent African art forms used to further various modes of social and political discourse.”

There are 360 items on the Between the Beads website.  You can see them rotated, as well as zoomed in so close that a single seed bead is the size of a fingernail.  There’s a map to see the provenance of each piece, and student interpretations of the pieces (from an African Textiles and Clothing class at the University of Florida).

The Africana Collection at the University of Florida has more images, with the same ability to zoom in and rotate.  This search should get you the beadwork.  If the search times out, enter “beads” in the search box for the Africana Collection.

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