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AmaXhosa beadwork (<i>Iintsimbi</i>) for identity affirmation and economic empowerment

Carina Nomfuzo Rozani
Nomalungelo Goduka


AmaXhosa were, and still are, known for the splendor and assortment of aesthetics through beadwork. Traditionally, their garments and ornamentation reflected stages of amaXhosa life. A certain headdress was worn by a newly married girl; a different style was worn by one who had given birth to her first child, and so on. However, modernity and western-based education relegated amaXhosa customs and practices to marginal positions. This article discusses the erosion of African cultural values that included the dress code complimented with beadwork (iintsimbi) during colonialism. Given that schools are social systems for building children’s character, they can be conduits to transfer beadwork knowledge for the affirmation of African ethnic identity and for nurturing entrepreneurial skills. eZiko siPheka siSophula theoretical framework was used to underpin this work. This theoretical framework creates spaces for co-operative, collective and interdependent methods of sustaining livelihoods. It also provides a context for a paradigm shift that enhances the restoration of African ethnic identity and dignity through commercialization of amaXhosa beadwork. The study was conducted at Qunu village where abaThembu, a sub-ethnic group of amaXhosa are concentrated. Results showed a high percentage of participants who thought beadwork have a potential to restore African ethnic identity and would benefit amaXhosa through entrepreneurship.

Keywords: Beadwork (iintsimbi), African ethnic identity, sustainable livelihoods, co-operatives, entrepreneurial benefits.