The Xhosa are a southern African ethnic group with a long and rich tradition of complex beading with seeds, carved bone, shells, and more recently imported glass beads on cloth, as jewellery and to ornament household objects.
Their designs represent the natural world, rivers, stars, diamonds, trees. These are used to distinguish social status to identify communities and families within communities, and in spiritual ceremonies–as is customary with textile decoration the world over. White beading stands for purity and meditation, red is associated with Royalty, yellow for fertility and green for new life.
Some bead works tell a story, others are purely decorative.
As with many local traditional crafts, Xhosa beading has unfortunately suffered from modern and more commercial trends, and is no longer done very much more other than in a limited way for the tourist trade.
For more information and to buy beautiful antique pieces, look up The African Beadwork Connection.