Beadwork Exhibit Displays Culture Of Zulu People

ART REVIEW

February 06, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

"Beadwork of South Africa" is one of three exhibits that open this evening at Gallery 409 in celebration of Black History Month. The show is of beadwork by the Zulu people of South Africa. The pieces are from the collection of Morelle Thornton-Dibb, who is from South Africa and now lives in Baltimore.

Those who remember the recent exhibition of Ndebele beadwork at the Baltimore Museum of Art will find Zulu beadwork both similar and different. The individual Zulu pieces do not seem to be as large as the Ndebele, nor as pictorial.

Both, however, are highly colorful, expertly crafted and feature intricate, painstaking designs. Zulu beadwork is done by women and for the most part worn by women.

Among the most interesting pieces are the love letters, given to men by women -- circular bands with hanging decorated squares, their colors having symbolic meanings: yellow for jealousy, blue for purity, and so on. Some of the most handsome pieces are 50 or more years old and incorporate bead colors no longer made.

The other two exhibits at Gallery 409 are photography and text, on African American businesses in Baltimore and on Haiti. The shows will open this evening from 5:30 to 7:30.

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The exhibit "In Celebration of Black History Month" at Dundalk Community College (through Feb. 24) includes four silk-screen prints by Jacob Lawrence, three from his series of prints made to illustrate the book of Genesis. These dynamic prints grace a show of works by nine artists that brings a sense of vitality to this small gallery.

Among the other notable works is Chevelle Makeba Moore's "Play Like You're Asleep," a painting of a recumbent young woman being approached by a dark, threatening figure, as a snake slithers symbolically across her couch; beneath it, eyes watch. Here, as elsewhere, Moore's imagery has unusual tension and menace, more reminiscent of movies than of painting.

Unusual, too, are Schroeder Cherry's mixed media on wood wall pieces in the form of jackets bearing the identifying paraphernalia of life, from family photographs to credit cards.

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