Fall 2020

Talking with Beads

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

Moodle site: Course


Sonya Y. Clark (Section 01)


Focusing on complex global beading traditions and techniques, we will study how the language of beadwork is used to tell stories, connect with ancestors, provide protection, create community, signify power, and challenge injustice. This course draws on the over 75,000-year usage of beads ranging from umbilical amulets (Native American) to abacuses (Middle East and Asia) to rosaries (Europe) to lukasa (Central Africa) to Zulu love letters (South Africa). Students will learn dozens of beading techniques (many unique to South African cultures where some of the earliest beads were discovered.) We will use beads to communicate, preserve, and encode messages. Members of the class will make at least one collaborative work. We will expand the definition of what constitutes a bead; use variation in size, color, shape, and material as metaphor; and design beaded memory devices. No prior beading experience is necessary but curiosity and commitment is required.

Given the scale of beads, holding this class in person would require participants to be in an unsafe proximity to one another. Consequently, the course will meet remotely with supplemental one-on-one tutorials that will meet in-person and/or remotely.

Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor Clark.

If Overenrolled: Students will be randomly selected.


Artistic Practice, Online Only


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