The Commodification of Art: Ndebele Women in the Stream of Change


The original homelands of Ndzundza Ndebele are Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and the Northern Provinces. King Musi led their migration, and they settled in Tswana and Pedi. They intermarried and practiced cultural exchange whereby they adopted the house structure and house paintings strategy from their interactions (Adrienne 2010). The family battles caused the Ndebele people to split, and one group went to Zimbabwe as the other stayed in South Africa. The Ndzundza are known globally for their abstract house-painting schema. The Boer farmers overcame the Ndzundza and distributed them as indentured servants.

Wall Art

The artists in subordinate groups developed expressive symbols that showed their creativity. The Ndebele people painted their walls to express cultural resistance and continuity for the struggle. Although the white farmers were both politically and culturally superior, they viewed the Ndzundza’s cultural forms as decorative and harmless. The Ndebele’s earliest artwork exhibited tonal patterns of women’s fingers on the mud walls (Adrienne 2010). Besides, they only used natural pigments until the French introduced the acrylic pigments. Moreover, the Ndebele used to resurface the walls every season since the natural pigments were fragile. The resurfacing of the walls and beadwork production was the traditional primary duties the Ndebele women had. They design images for interior rooms, outer gates, front and side walls. Similarly, they were able to transfer the patterning strategy from one family to another.

Changes in Ndebele Art

Margaret Mead emphasized on non-violent transformation, and this affected the indigenous communities in South Africa. The introduction of written language and numberings by the European colonists meant that the Ndebele’s traditional beadwork and wall arts will intermix with the foreign symbols. According to the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, although other cultural traditions have been abandoned, others remain an integral part of the country (Adrienne 2010). They have blended well with the modern elements, depicting juxtaposition of old and new artwork. Over the last four years, the Ndebele women have gained extraordinary market experience. They initially practiced artwork as a tradition, but today their artworks have some economic benefits.

A Bridge of the 21st Century

What the Ndebele people are much concerned about is whether the young generation will be able to maintain their classic artistry in beadwork production and painting form. To ensure that the creativity continues, the artists Ester Mahlangu and Francina Ndimande introduced painting lessons that involve the use the traditional and modern brushes. They tend to use self-education to transfer values and skills learned during the initiation schooling. The external cultural influence has played a critical role in the transformation of the Ndebele artwork (Adrienne 2010). Currently, the Ndebele artwork functions as an aesthetic commodity. It no longer speaks for the indigenous community alone. For the Ndebele women and families, their artworks act as an economic bridge to the 21st century.



Works Cited

Adrienne, Hoard. “The Commodification of Art: Ndebele Women in the Stream of Change.” Cultural Survival. 2010. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <>.

Bell, Bucklee. “UB-NBART.” UB-NBART. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <>.

Do you need an Original High Quality Academic Custom Essay?