EdutainmentMix: Threading dreams: A journey through the beadwork of Sibanda

In as much Sibanda also outlines the prevalence of challenges she faces with regards to her trade as a bead maker.

In the heart of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's vibrant second city, lives a woman whose nimble fingers and boundless creativity have transformed beads into breathtaking works of art.

Gugulethu Sibanda, a beadwork expert, has become a beacon of inspiration in her community, demonstrating the beauty and cultural significance of traditional handicrafts.

Gugulethu's journey into the world of beadwork began at an early age.  She explains how her mother had bought a beaded handbag which she was attracted to and admired, but could not afford and hence she decided to take up the challenge to make one bag for herself.

This marked the birth of “Mayande Inotho”, which was made possible with the help of Janice Mpala who pushed her to pursue beadwork.

Beadwork is more than a craft for Gugulethu; it is  a way to preserve her heritage.

 Each piece that she creates is a tapestry of stories, traditions, and cultural motifs passed down through generations.

Her work features a rich blend of vibrant colors and intricate patterns, and each bead is meticulously chosen and woven together to create a cohesive and striking design.

She also explains how she did a lot of bead work and micramme, creating accessories such as handbags, sandals, bracelets, necklaces, key chains and headsets.

“Traditional art inspires  my designs as it provides a glimpse into our past, and it has made me to want to know more and research about different  cultures  and traditions," Sibanda explained.

Speaking to Standard Style, Gugulethu also explained how she had started this with no targeted niche market but passion was what drove her to pursue beadwork.

She uses the precepts of her beadwork to help people to connect to the aesthetics of their culture and heritage which is also even now embedded in the new curriculum at local schools.

“People used to despise, and they never accepted  beads because they believed  that beads are only worn by “izangoma”  or witch doctors, yet they did not take time to understand  that these accessories  are meant to beautify and add  value especially  to women.  These  beaded accessories  are worn for identity purposes as black people,” she said.

What started as a hobby soon blossomed into a profession. Recognising the uniqueness of her creations, Gugulethu began showcasing her beadwork at local markets and craft fairs.

The response was overwhelming, with many captivated by the skill and detail in her pieces.

"People were fascinated by the stories behind my designs," she further explains. "It made me realise that I could turn my passion into a livelihood."

Today, Gugulethu's beadwork adorns homes and bodies far beyond Bulawayo. From elegant jewelry to decorative home pieces, her creations have found a market both locally and internationally.

 Her ability to blend traditional techniques with contemporary aesthetics has garnered her a loyal clientele and a reputation as one of Zimbabwe's finest beadwork artisans.

In as much Sibanda also outlines the prevalence of challenges she faces with regards to her trade as a bead maker.

“It has not been easy  for me to establish  myself. When you are  self taught  it takes time to have confidence  in your work. I thank Janice  Mpala as she played a big role in my life, and my family have been  supportive  and they encourage  me. My father once also encouraged me to continue working hard and be resilient amidst the hurdles.

"Those words always ring in my mind and I took that to be my father's blessings.  This has helped me to overcome  my fears.”

Another challenge which she encounters is with regards to how people have not yet fully understood that these hand crafted accessories are of value as time has been invested in the process of designing and crafting them. Such attitudes need to be charged.

She says a lot of people complain about the exorbitant prices of beadwork overlooking the labour and material costs put into the work.

"There is a lot of investment put into bead work and it cannot be given out for free."

Another critical aspect of note is in how Gugulethu is also a content creator who has been active on social media educating people through jokes and putting focus on the everyday happenings within the society.

She explains how she uses her content creation in a quest to raise awareness towards something or certain issues that affect individuals and the society at large.

“It has not been an easy cause with these social media platforms. if you don't  have the knowledge of how to effectively utilise them, you can waste your data entertaining people without  getting anything  from it, especially  when you are  not yet known or if your account  is not that big.

"I was very lucky to have met up with a Kenyan sister on tiktok and she is the one who helped  me by taking me through the process of how to make money  on tiktok and how to withdraw  it.  That is how I have been generating additional revenue.  With Facebook I am yet to find out how I can monetise my posts," she says.

Gugulethu says the experience of African motherhood also influences her bead work. 

"As we celebrated Africa Day on May 25, I use my artistry to celebrate African women.  I became a mother at a young age of 21. I had no idea what to expect, and the least I could  do was to embrace the journey of motherhood and bead work, and enjoy the wonderful things it has taught  me.

"My child gives me the courage to push forward even when the times are tough. That is  how I have managed  to sail through  in this cruel world  full of judgemental  people.  With these words  I encourage  all single  mothers to put a deaf ear to negative  societal views  about their work, and to never allow negative  criticism  to weigh them down. Keep on looking  forward, backward never, work hard for your children through craft, nd never wait for an absent  father."

Looking ahead, Gugulethu's dreams are to expand her workshop into a larger, dedicated space where she can train even more women and produce her beadwork on a larger scale.

She envisions a center that not only teaches the art of beadwork but also promotes the cultural heritage of Zimbabwe through various forms of traditional crafts.

"There's so much talent in our communities," she says. "With the right support and resources, we can create a platform for our crafts to shine on the world stage."

Gugulethu's story is one of passion, perseverance, and the transformative power of art. Through her beadwork, she weaves together threads of tradition, creativity, and community, creating pieces that are not only visually stunning but also rich with cultural significance.

In every bead she threads, Gugulethu continues to dream, inspire, and empower, leaving an indelible mark on the tapestry of Zimbabwe's cultural heritage.


  • Raymond Millagre Langa is a musician, poet, orator, independent researcher and founder of Indebo edutainment Trust. You can follow him on Facebook @Millagre Ray Langa, on X you can follow on #Millagre Langa, email. [email protected] or [email protected]


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