South African bead art showcased at Flint Institute of Arts - WNEM TV 5

South African bead art showcased at Flint Institute of Arts

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FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

A breath-taking display of South African art is making its debut in Mid-Michigan.

This weekend the Flint Institute of Art is showcasing a new form of bead art that was crafted by a community of women living in South Africa.

The beading skills are passed down through generations.

“What it does is it takes women and it shows them they are born as artists,” said Bev Gibson, co-currator of Ubuhle Women: Beadwork & the Art of Independence.

Gibson is talking about a new form of textile art called Ndwango and it's making its debut at the Flint Institute of Arts.

The exhibit, showcasing the intricate bead-work, was created by a community of women living and working in South Africa.

“I think what it does more than shows the world beautiful work, think it shows the incredible potential of rural women,” Gibson said.

This exhibit was first on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington in 2013 and will now be here in Mid- Michigan.

Gibson said the intricacy of each glass bead sewn into fabric has become more than a work of art for these women.

“Ndwago really for the women is at times, therapy and a lot of the work is people dealing with loss, delaing with creating a memory of someone important,” Gibson said.

There are more than 30 pieces of artwork in the Hodge gallery for the exhibit, but the impressive thing is the amount of beads.

No one can give an exact number, but they know it’s well into the millions.

“They tell incredible stories of their lives, their losses, their loves, the beauty of their homeland and this is used as a means of financial independence for these women,” said Chene Koppitz, communications and marketing coordinator at the Flint Institute of Arts.

Koppitz said this is the perfect exhibit to kick-off the new year.

“It will give you a wonderful introduction to African Art if you are unfamiliar,” Koppitz said.

The institute will celebrate the opening of the exhibit with the 11th annual community gala on Jan. 20 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The exhibit runs through March 31.

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