Incredible South African fine art beading studio Qubeka Bead Studio showcased at the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London. An artwork from Qubeka was snapped up by a French collector within hours of the 1.54 Art Fair opening, setting the pace for the rest of the fair and potentially prophesying a sparkling future for the homegrown beading collaborative.
1:54 has a name you wish you’d thought of first – a reference to the fifty-four countries that constitute Africa, the name captures the fair’s ethos to be a platform that strives to represent multiplicity and showcase the diversity of contemporary African art and cultural production on an international stage. This was the fair’s most substantial showcase yet, with 37 exhibitors presenting works from over 150 contemporary artists from Africa and the African diaspora. Qubeka Bead Studio was invited by the fair as part of their Special Projects category; a collaborative effort to create different perspectives.
Artisans and businesswomen Neliswa Skiti, Nolubabul Kanku and Mandisa Masina founded fine art beading collaborative Qubeka Bead Studio in 2004. The trio has produced incredibly sensitive translations of paintings, drawings and creative ideas into exceptionally handcrafted beaded artworks. The collaborative process is a necessarily full-on but rich one, in which the vision and consistent input of the artist who created the original artwork is essential for the beading artisans to successfully interpret brushstrokes and fine detail. The end result is intricately beaded artwork translations expressed in truly remarkable panels of thousands of beads that carry the mood and soul of the original artwork, with a standalone beauty and resilience in their unique interpretation. Yellowwoods Arts has played a pivotal role in the ongoing success of Qubeka, facilitating synergistic working relationships between artists and artisans.
On exhibition at 1:54 were Qubeka Bead Studio artworks produced in collaboration with Liza Grobler, Wayne Barker, Marlise Keith, Elize Vossgater and Lynne Lomofsky. Three of Qubeka’s own designs were also exhibited, each with a focus on everyday street-side scenes, the value and meaning of which are incredibly moving when captured in exceptionally fine beadwork detail.
Qubeka Bead Studio’s work is in a world of it’s own and destined for even brighter lights. With collaborations between Qubeka and the artists showcased above, as well as other celebrated artists including Conrad Botes, Lyndi Sales (who had a presence at 1:54 represented by Everard Read), Doreen Southwood and others, founders Neliswa Skiti, Nolubabul Kanku and Mandisa Masina have already created a body of phenomenal work. Qubeka Bead Studio has work in the Nando’s Art Collection that is permanently showcased at Nando’s Central Kitchen, as well as in Nando’s restaurants in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia – all part of Nando’s dedication to sharing South African art with the world in an accessible way.