Spring 2019

Talking with Beads

Listed in: Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-207


Sonya Y. Clark (Section 01)


This course draws on the 75,000-year history of beads used as mnemonic devices from all over the world including abacuses (Middle East and Asia), rosaries (Europe), lukasa (Central Africa), and Zulu love letters (South Africa). Focusing specifically on the complexity of the rich beading traditions and techniques, we will study how beads are used as a language. We will explore codes that have been and can be easily translated into beads. Students will learn to identify and create over  50 bead embroidery and off-loom beading techniques (many that are unique to South African cultures). They will expand the very definition of what constitutes a bead; be encouraged to use beads made from materials that engage all five senses; capitalize on variation in size, color, shape and texture as metaphor; focus on the meaning in material (wood, metal, paper, etc.); and design beaded memory devices. Topics will be presented in slide lectures and class trips to beadwork collections.

Limited to 14 students. Spring semester. Professor Clark.

If Overenrolled: Students will be randomly selected.


Artistic Practice


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021