Glass beads were first used as trading commodities centuries ago in intra-African trade. They are an integral part of Zulu and other African cultures. And via Gone Rural, they uplift 150 women who used them to make the most beautiful objects, from jewellery to coasters and beaded giraffes.

Did you know?

Zulu beads woven into specific patterns, using certain colours, can be used to signal romantic or other feelings, and marital status.

Oscar Ngcobo of Durban owes beads a big debt. His mother put him through school and tertiary education through her beadwork. With his excellent qualifications, Oscar became a banker.

'I am a by-product of beads,' he jokes.

But eventually, beads lured him back. Twenty years ago, he left the bank to start up a business that marketed Zulu beadwork. He called it Gone Rural. At that stage, the market in these crafts was dominated by a few operators and many beadworkers were exploited.

Now Oscar commissions bead and telephone wire crafts from a total of 150 women in rural and semi-rural Zulu towns and villages around Durban (including the Valley of a Thousand Hills in the Pietermaritzburg area and further north). Many of these women are the sole breadwinners for their families.

Necklaces and bracelets are the most popular of the product range, but the women also create earrings, sunglass holders, Alice bands, beaded coasters, lamps, pens, frames, and colourful telephone wire baskets.

Oscar sources and supplies the women with the raw materials they need.

As founder of Gone Rural, Oscar travels around the world, exhibiting the beautiful beadwork and learning about the latest design and colour trends. With this knowledge he is able to keep Gone Rural's products on the cutting edge. He works with the women to incorporate new styles and colours into their work.

Most of Gone Rural’s beadwork is sold overseas, but there are three places in South Africa where you can easily find Gone Rural’s beadwork. The biggest one is the Zulu Kingdom shop in the uShaka Marine World’s Village Mall.

You’ll also find more at Durban’s weekly Essenwood Market and in Johannesburg’s famous African Craft Market at the Rosebank Mall.

There’s also the option of ordering your beautiful beadwork curios online.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Gone Rural Safari Curios
Oscar Ngcobo
Tel: +27 (0)31 312 0409
Cell: +27 (0)83 530 7136

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