‘I was not working and then Monkeybiz changed my life,’ says one mother about the non-profit art collective that since 2000 empowers women in South Africa.
By Sinette Hesselink

Monkeybiz started simply with a beaded doll. Back in 1999, Barbara Jackson and Shirley Fintz both, South African ceramicists and African art collectors had their eureka moment. They showed a small beaded doll to a part-time student, Mathapelo Ngaka, who then took it to her mother, Makatiso, a skilled bead artist with the brief ‘can you do a doll that looks unique?’, and Monkeybiz was born. An inspired craft art collective that rejuvenates the traditional African art of beading while at the same time providing opportunities for women in poverty.

Monkeybiz is a non-profit organization that started in South Africa in 2000 and is committed to women’s empowerment and based on the philosophy of making the women self-sufficient, to understand business and take responsibility. The women work in their own homes, are still able to raise their families and take care of household duties. Their traditional women’s work is being recognized, valued and utilized to their advantage where it would normally go unpaid and unnoticed.

Haas Brothers

Last year, during the Guild, Africa’s international design fair, the Haas Brothers were showing their exciting collaboration project called ‘Afreaks’. It’s a Haas Brothers collaboration with South Africa’s master beading company Monkeybiz (for this project calling themselves ‘Haas Sisters’) and Bronze Age Foundry. The project was documented in a beautiful catalogue.

And this year the Sisters took up workshopping for the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, NY., teaching adults the craftsmanship and the basics of beading.

Sinette Hesselink is a designer and trend forecaster based in Amsterdam

Top image: The Haas Sisters gathered for the Cooper Hewitt workshop

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