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Allow me to Introduce… Jabulani

My first ‘meeting’(apart from the Created Catalogue) with Jabulani was in Cape Town Airport: Having just spent my last day in South Africa with another of Created’s jewellery making partners – Umtha – it was very exciting to see an eye catching display of Jabulani’s jewellery for sale in the departure lounge shop.

Jabulani’s jewellery combines the intricate detail of traditional Zulu beadwork with the subtle colour coordination of contemporary design.

In the Zulu language jabulani is the word for ‘rejoice’. In many parts of South Africa, the high prevalence of AIDS and a lack of employment opportunities mean that ‘jabulani’ is perhaps heard less often than it should be. Paula wanted to change this.

Although Paula Goosen had no real training or experience in running a business, her vision was to provide work for women in the Ndedwe area some 80km north of Durban. Many have received little or no education during the apartheid era but as Paula observes ‘What I find amazing, is that many of the women are illiterate and cannot count, and yet they consistently reproduce the intricate geometric beadwork designs with such accuracy.’

The journey has been a tough learning experience for Paula from Jabulani’s start in 1991; the venture now has nine permanent staff and provides work to around 100 others
Paula continues their story; ‘We have established an honest and open trading relationship with a rural community, which has one of the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the world. At Jabulani we believe that by paying a fair price for skill and effort, we foster respect and dignity. As a result, we have witnessed a wonderful improvement in the quality of our bead women’s lives. Every handcrafted piece of Zulu beaded jewellery helps sustain the lives of real people giving them a stable source of income.’

The dream is to provide a crèche so that the women can work together more regularly, and also develop other ways of giving practical support to them, such as contributing to medical expenses. ‘We could do so much more – we just need to sell more’ is Paula’s straightforward analysis. ‘We have whole families who obtain a significant part of their income from their beadwork.’
If you have visited fair2all you may have seen some of Jabulani’s distinctive jewellery, with tiny beads woven into stunning geometric patterns. It is very intricate and time consuming work, so, as the bead women are paid a fair wage for their work, it may appear to be expensive – only the other week a customer remarked on the price of the beaded ‘Union Flag’ key ring which although much smaller is the same price as a beaded pencil case (onto which the beads have only been stitched; a much quicker process).

Having visited another Tearfund partner’s project, south of Durban and met some women (whose circumstances sound very similar to those Paula is working with) working in rural, self-help, cooperatives, I was very excited that the selection of stunning beadwork necklaces from Jabulani that Created will be stocking this year has now arrived in the warehouse. So it may not surprise you that the bracelets and necklaces have already featured at Ashby Spa WI’s Fashion Show and in the window of fair2all.

Not that I have had time to count them but I would guess that an individual large ‘bead’ on the necklaces must be made from at least 100 tiny beads all carefully joined together to form the large ‘bead’. Then a selection of colour toning large ‘beads’ are used together with other materials to form the necklace, bracelet or earrings.

My description does not do justice to the fine detail of the work so why not come and see this stunning bead work jewellery, a modern tribute to the ancient art of bead work handed down for hundreds of years in the Zulu culture?