Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence showcases a new form of bead art, the “ndwango,” developed by a community of women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The artists call their paintings in beads “ndwangos,” which translates as “cloth” or “rag.” By stretching the fabric like a canvas, the artists transform the flat cloth into a contemporary art form with colored Czech glass beads.

Ubuhle was established in 1999 on a former sugar plantation north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal when Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela and Bev Gibson shared a vision of combining skills to create employment for rural women. Together they created a means for local women to use inherited beading traditions as a way of achieving their own financial independence. As a master beader, Ntombephi also trained other women not brought up in this tradition so that they too could join the community.

Below are some of the amazing works of art currently available in our Museum Store along with the stories behind the designs provided to us by co-curator Bev Gibson. Layaway program available. Please contact the Museum Store at 319-362-8500 or email swick@ncsml.org for more information.

Zondile Zondo: I Hear My Father’s Cattle, There is Music in My Heart27 x 32, $6,000

This represents the joy that Zondile would have felt as a young woman when she heard her father bringing the cattle in at the end of the day.

Zondlile Zondo: Vision for My Daughter13 x 24, $4,000

An exceptional piece by Zondlile. A piece that should be in a collection.

She creates a vase of flowers. She is represented by the vase, her womb, her eyes, giving life and carefully watching her daughter. Get hope of her daughter bursting into life that is positive and full of growth.

A seemingly simple work, but the detail of the beading and patterning are a tribute to the time she has given her daughter and the emotions she feels.

Thando Ntobela: Links of Love, 14 x 19, $3,000

Thando created the distinct circles which she so loves. They represent the energy circle of each person and are painstakingly stitched on to the fabric.

She links some of the circles, and by calling it ‘Links of Love’ shows her own relationships. Her links would be to get two children and to her sisters.

Zandile Ntobela: The Disturbance, 17 x 33, $5,200

The second piece that Zandile creates in which she stitches her concern and hopes that the changes at Little Farm bring.

The Disturbance is represented by the large bronze beads placed within a landscape of bright colors and beautiful patterns. Zandile loves Little Farm, and as she reminisces about her life there she used beautiful patterns and colors symbolizing the joy of living there. It also represents the hope that she will now have a home of her own at Little Farm but also the concern of what change may bring.

Zondlile Zondo: Sunset in The Field of My Father’s Home, 13 x 18, $3,200

A piece simply catching a moment of sunset when Zondlile visits her ancestral home. The plant is an aloe and is spectacular when it flowers as it flowers in winter when the rest of the landscape is bleak and barren.

The beauty of the flower celebrates the joy of being at her ancestral home as well as simply celebrating the beauty of nature.

Thando Ntobela: Puzzles of Life 2, 18 x 30, $5,100

Puzzles of life 2, is the second piece that Thando has created experimenting with a new pattern.

She keeps the circle, which she so loves, at the center of each puzzle, and then creates an image of life extending from the circle.

Once again showing Thando’s quest to try and make sense of life and its challenges. The bright colors would reflect joy and positive emotion, indicating that Thando sees her Puzzle in a positive background.

Zandile Ntobela: The Marriage, 18 x 20 $4,800


An exceptional work by Zandile. A piece I believe should be part of a collection.

Zandile celebrates marriage, the entwined tulips are beautifully created and show movement, representing the dance between two people in a marriage. The choice of tulips would be as they also represent a glass and the toast made to the bride and groom.

Zandile is a single mother of four children. She celebrates her independence but would love a marriage where she is honored and celebrated.

The colors she uses are bright and vibrant creating a piece that celebrates joy and love in a relationship.

Ntombephi Ntobela: Winter Tree, 21 x 26 on frame, $4,200

This piece is the only piece we have available from co-founder Induna.

Winters are harsh in the Midlands where Little Farm is. The trees are deciduous, a lush green garden becomes stark. Induna creates her stark tree, wondering how many winters she will experience at Little Farm. The background to the tree, full of color, showing a life full of creativity, wealth, and joy. Celebrating the impact of the art on her life.

Her decision is that once her eyes start to fail she will no longer bead.

Zandile Ntobela: Ripples of Life, 17 x 23 on frame, $4,200

A nostalgic piece. Zandile was watching her children fish in the dam at Little Farm. As the hook hit the water she watched the ripples it created.

Little Farm has been sold to a developer, the artists will continue to live there and will be given homes. During this time of negotiation, it has created change—change that brings hope but also uncertainty. Zandile has created two pieces, this piece and ‘The Disturbance,’ where she stitched her feelings and reminisces about the Farm as it is.

Nono: Zama (I am trying), 18 x 19,  $500

A new beader the artists have introduced. She needs to develop her style and technique. It’s a beautiful piece for a beginner, and it’s going to be interesting to watch her develop.

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