Mdukatshani Crafters


Although beadwork is a traditional Zulu craft, when the project arrived in the valley beads were so expensive that none of the young makotis had ever threaded a needle or stitched a bead. Apart from antique pieces sold to dealers, beads were no longer worn nor made, so the women had a lot to learn. In the years  since their first uncertain lessons in the shade of a thorn tree, they have produced jewellery worn by  celebrities like Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Paloma Picasso and Princess Michael of Kent, while doing beadwork for two haute couture collections for fashion designer Yves St.Laurent. The crafters work from home, sometimes in groups, sometimes alone, but always close to their families. It`s an informal system that connects scattered homes across the hills. Once a week finished work is collected at ‘the stop’  - a meeting place under a tree along the road. Here news is discussed, and problems shared, before the women disperse along their separate footpaths, carrying the new work home.