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Friday, May 28, 2004

Africa as a Market - The Bead Trade

Cordelia Salter, Founder of eShopAfrica.com coordinated an exhibition of antique trade beads collected in Africa which was on display at FAO Headquarters in Rome during Africa week 24 - 28 May 2004. She also gave a lunchtime seminary on Africa and the bead trade. The beads that were on display tell an interesting story. Many of the designs were highly localised with beads of a particular colour being manufactured for a particular region of Africa. Fakes were common and both Venetian and Bohemian bead makers were skilled at reproducing beads which had a high value in Africa such as granite and coral.

The bead factories retained agents all over the continent who sent beads that were popular in Africa back to Europe to be copied. The exhibition had many examples of both the African originals and European copies.

The exhibition also showed that although the European bead industry fell into decline in the last century, the designs are still being reproduced in Africa today although the African bead makers use different processes.

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