Student Interpretation → Elise Carson
Ndebele and Ngwane Staffs
This staff, called an amandondolo, was created by the Ndebele people of South Africa. Beadwork is created exclusively by women in the Ndebele culture, though men may have been responsible for creating the staff itself. Each glass bead is strung onto a thread by hand, which makes this process a very tedious one.
The use of dark colors reflects the 20th century availability of such hues. Earlier beadwork displays brighter hues. The earliest beadwork was predominantly white, with a few colored beads thrown in as design accents. Beads have been acquired through trade with Europeans since colonization.
Symmetrical motifs adorn the staff, reflecting the Ndebele love of geometrical shapes. The rounded top of the staff was originally created with a ball of wood, though a tennis ball eventually replaced it, as in this staff. Women used this dancing staff in ceremonial activities like weddings and initiations.
Dance Staff (amandondolo)
Wood, glass beads, cloth, tennis ball
Gift of Caroline Popper
This ceremonial dance staff, covered with beads in dark geometric designs, reflects an Ndebele style of the 1960s. In the past, the sphere on the top would have been made of wood, but since the mid-20th century, tennis balls have been used. The beaded rings below the sphere recall the heavy beaded rings (isigolwane) worn on the necks, arms and legs of unmarried women which are removed and replaced with multiple thin brass rings after marriage.