Aren't they wonderfully beautiful?
The Ndebele and Zulu women of South Africa traditionally made these beautiful dolls to give young woman at the time of marriage. In recent years these dolls have become one of the many handmade crafts sold to tourists in order to support the economies of women in South Africa. I bought several of these dolls a few years ago when I was fortunate enough to visit Capetown.
I bought many handmade things on that trip. A set of totebags weaved out of recycled tee shirts, a traditional rug and a set of bowls. Each of these items holds a prominant place in my office at work. In the years since the trip, they have become integrated in my daily routines and I hardly remark upon them unless someone asks me where I got them because they aren't your usual midwestern handiwork.
But the dolls are different from my other purchases. I look at them all the time. In hindsight, I think they may be one of the major reasons I started making dolls. I initially bought them because they were aesthetically pleasing and featured beadwork. I started my crafting as a beader and the beadcraft of South African women is remarkable. Since the dolls ended up in my life, I have been more and more interested in the passing of dolls from woman to woman and I even started making my own. I think I was inspired by the fact that the dolls were made not as toys but to teach and as gifts from older women to younger with the hope for abundant living sewn into each one. Each time I look at my own pair of Ndebele dolls I feel the community of women behind them. I like that feeling.
I am deeply indebted to the makers of these traditional handmade dolls and can only dream of making things as beautiful and desirable as these.