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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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KIT (Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen)
Mauritskade 63
1092 AD Amsterdam
The Netherlands
+31 (0)20 568 8711
Fax: +31 (0)20 6684 579

Paul Faber, Curator Africa
Tel 0031-20-5688449 Fax 0031-20-5688331 


Beauty and the Beads at the Tropenmuseum

beadsAn exhibition of beaded costumes from every age and culture

From 16 December 2006 to 13 May 2007 in the Tropenmuseum Light Hall 

The Tropenmuseum presents the story of the bead.

‘Beauty and the Bead - from Madonna to the Maasai’

reveals the evolution of the bead as an integral part of the history of mankind. ‘Beauty and the Bead’ presents beaded costumes from every epoch and all corners of the earth. Among the exhibits are a royal robe from Congo, a parka from the North Pole and a mummy from ancient Egypt. In addition, a sparkling dress worn by Marilyn Monroe, Madonna’s shoes and haute couture by Versace and John Galliano. All this and more can be seen beginning 16 December 2006 in ‘Beauty and the Bead’ at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.

Beads TropenmuseumBeads at the Tropenmuseum Amsterdam - photo (c) David Norden 

This is the first exhibition ever to focus on beads as a worldwide phenomenon: a tiny object symbolizing for more than 100,000 years identity, status, origin and emotion. ‘Beauty and the Bead’ is above all about people: self-expression and creativity, identity and status, vanity and greed, power and temptation, but also spirituality, technical ingenuity and commerce. The show reveals how beads have brought peoples from different continents into contact and how they influenced each other, with beads serving as a visual language.

The exhibition starts with an introduction showing the variety of materials, appearance and function of beads. Since the dawn of history beads have been used to decorate the body, as a means of exchange, a status symbol and a medium of communication between people and gods. Beads on a rosary help worshippers keep track of the number of prayers they have said, a custom taken up in many religions. 
The section ‘From Head to Toe’ reveals the way each part of the body is decorated with beads in different cultures. Special beads, such as cowries, coins, pearls and buttons are featured in ‘Gifts of Nature, Objects of Culture’. ‘From Icon to Fashion’ focuses on the interaction between haute couture and designer’s trends, as well as between Western and ethnic dress. ‘From Cradle to Grave’ shows how beads accompany life’s journey. A wedding, for example, is considered the apex of one’s life in almost every culture. Wedding gowns throughout the world are often decorated with beads, whether an Ndebele ensemble from South Africa, or the bridal dress of Princess Grace of Monaco.

Beads from Paris, Hollywood, Moscow and Amsterdam

Items from more than 70 collections have been lent to this exhibition. Among the lenders are the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Kremlin Museum in Moscow, fashion houses such as Dior, Versace and Armani, with garments worn by such celebrities as Diana Ross, Madonna and Marilyn Monroe. From the Tropenmuseum’s own collection the exhibition features the famous Sick Collection of approximately 22,000 glass beads on sample cards collected in the twentieth century. 

Tha catalogue accompanying the exhibition is available in Dutch only. The author of ‘Pracht en Kraal’, Loan Oei, is guest curator of the exhibition. The catalogue is available in the museum shop. 

Loan Oei, guest curator, and Itie van Hout, curator of textiles of the Tropenmuseum, are responsible for the concept and realization of the exhibition. ‘Beauty and the Bead’ was designed by Architectenbureau Jowa. 

The exhibition was made possible through the support of the VSBfonds, GasTerra, BankGiro Loterij, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Wilhelmina E. Jansen Fonds, K.F. Hein Fonds and Voyage & Culture (Natalia Konstantinova). VJF Glaser BV and D. Swarovski & Co made the educational projects possible.  With this exhibition the Tropenmuseum provides a platform for the Medical Knowledge Institute (MKI) to promote its objectives to a wider audience. 

Tropenmuseum- Linnaeusstraat 2 - Amsterdam - - 

read also:

Tropenmuseum Amsterdam 

I visited the new section of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, and was quite impressed by the presentation. More fine African Art on view, mixed with explanation on the daily life in Africa. Surprising and astonishing...


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The Tribal Arts of Africa

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