1. Beadwork is a central artistic tradition for many African cultures, used in elaborate displays of beauty, wealth, status, and decoration.
2. Some of the more interesting works of jewelry and textiles incorporate both indigenous beads (made of ceramic, shells, wood) with imported or traded beads of glass or metal.
3. Glass trade beads–sometimes originating from Venice or Bohemia–were used as currency throughout the colonization of Africa. Along Africa’s west coast, beads were exchanged for gold, ivory–even slaves.
4. Glass beads dating from the 21st century B.C.E. have been discovered in Egyptian royal tombs. The now-popular Zulu beadwork is a relatively recent tradition (only a hundred or so years old).
5. Moses Lewin Levin, a 19th-century London bead merchant, donated a vast collection of African beads to the Victoria & Albert Museum, where they are exhibited today.
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