Beadwork is a by-product of feminine socialization.

Young girls accompany their elder sisters to the local store where they learn to select beads according to colour and quality. Finished products worn by other shoppers are critically discussed so that their social significance is soon understood by the novice.

Men depend on female relatives to explain what they do not understand. Learning by experience, the significance of standard ornaments are by no means beyond them. They can see whether a woman is uncommited, engaged, married, unmarried, has children or umarried sisters and recognize regional colours which tell them where she comes from, assuming that she wants these things to be known. Without actually “translating”, a man can pick out in a crowd the females he may approach with impunity.

Zulu Beadwork