The advent of the festive season challenges us to think actively about the nature of giving. For one or two months a year, we reckon with what we have, and with what we have to give: tradition compels us to consider how best to convey love in the language of things.
The Christmas period is apt to foul your relationship with shopping. Buying and buying in profusion, you start to resent the emptiness that emanates from the excess of stuff you amass. In a world of boundless and compulsive consumption, there are few instances of items with the power to facilitate a real sense of connection — to establish a meaningful set of relations between the creators and the intended recipients. The Marigold co-operative’s handmade, loom-woven beads are one such instance.
Six years ago, Zimbabwe-born artist and Wits academic Joni Brenner received a long, thin strip of loomed beadwork from a women’s co-operative in Bulawayo. At this time, South Africans weren’t widely exposed to loomed beadwork, and it is quite unlike the local forms with which we are familiar. Rows of conjoined beads form a kind of rippling, ridged fabric, reminiscent — on a minute scale — of the scales on a reptile.
When she saw the sample strip, Brenner thought: “I wonder if it can be joined — it would make a great necklace. And, if it could be joined, I’d like three; and I’d like three in slightly different lengths, so that when you wear a set of them, they won’t all sit at the same point at your belly. And actually,” Brenner reflects, “in this moment, the design for these necklaces was born, and it was as random and arbitrary as that.”