Skilled embroiderers and excellent beading teacher

Masungulo Beads & Textile

This small beading & textile business in Mbhokotha, near Elim Limpopo province, belongs to a lively Tsonga mother & daughter team. The mother, Elisah Maluleke is excellent in traditional Tsonga handwork like beading and embroidery whilst Maureen is doing the machine sewing work. Elisah knows a lot about the traditional symbols and patterns of the Tsonga people and is continuously working on new styles, designs and products.

Masungulo use traditional skills in modern designs

Masungulo use Tsonga indigenous knowledge and techniques to make modern products such as wall hangings, jewelry, cushions and bags. This way the tradition is kept alive and the skills are being passed on to younger generations. Elisah often goes to Madi a Thavha to train other local women or guests in beadwork and embroidery skills. Maureen has been to several training courses at the lodge, one a course in textile painting & batik, presented by Nonny Mahle, wellknown textile artist from Bulawayo. She is now a competent sewer and textile artists. Tsonga women has been doing bead work, safety pin decoration and embroidery for many generations.

See their artworks at local Exhibition

Large embroidered and beaded wall-panels of Elisah can be seen at Madi a Thavha mountain lodge.  She can be commissioned to make textile art too. She and Maureen have been collaborating with Madi a Thavha’s Textile & Design studio and their handwork is now part of the major Venda Tsonga CraftArt Exhibition at the lodge.

Vibrant tradition still thrives in modern times

Masungulo Beads & Textile is situated in Mbhokota village, Elim Northern Limpopo, a rural environment where the rich cultural heritage of the Tsonga people is still thriving. This area’s many crafters and artists with their vibrant mix of  cultural heritage with modern influences of technology, became quite popular for tourists to visit.

Tsonga women wear colourful nćeka dooks.

Although new styles are regularly introduced, Tsonga women have worn the traditional nćeka or plural, minćeka dooks for many, many generations. They wear 2 minćeka, one knotted on each shoulder.  The dooks are handmade and often express their family story or proudly state that they are, for example the “mother of Nyeleti”.

Telling stories in how it is decorated

The typical attire of Tsonga women’s festive garments  are the Nćeka which is the overlay dook and the Xibilani, the layered skirt for dancing, which reflect the vibrancy and creative use of colour combinations so typical of the Tsonga way of life. They also reflect all sorts of traditional and personal characteristics of individual Tsonga women:

  • The upper body with facial features and beaded ear rings, the Xibelani beaded dancing skirt of Tsonga women, the beaded waist bands and the decorated nćeka cloth worn across the shoulder. All these signify aspects of the female body.
  • Tsonga women still like the tradition of wearing nćeka and colourfull dooks on their heads. At special cultural occasions they wear the Xibilani dancing skirt telling stories also in the way it is decorated

New house and workshop for Masungulo

Elisah recently built a new house with the support of her 6 children and established her workplace and shop in one of the rooms of her new house, where tourists can visit. She was the manager of Twananani textiles in Mbhokhota village for more than 30 years and has only recently established Masungulo Beads & Textile.The meaning of Masungulo is appropriately:  Foundation, beginning, basis, preliminary, origin, original.

Benefits and challenges

The benefits are many: income generation, the satisfaction of being creative, the satisfaction of keeping these traditional skills alive, being able to work at home, creating a new space for tourists to visit. The challenge is always to become aware of and to meet changing, differential market demands, finding the right quality materials, produce high quality products and accessing other than immediate local markets. ”

“We want to keep our origin, the Tsonga-Shangaan culture alive with our work. The knowledge about our traditional handcraft skills is being preserved in our family over four generations now. We use and enjoy bright vcolours and traditional beads. Through our business we created jobs in an area of Limpopo, South Africa where unemployment is very high,” says Elisah and Maureen.

Contact details Masungulo Beads & Textile:

Elisah Maluleke – 084 807 0341  Maureen Maluleke 073 544 8414   Box 1122 Elim – Hospital  0960 South Africa

At Mbhokota village next to the tarred road – 50m from the crossing of the R578 from Elim to Giyani with the D3830-Mbhokota-River Plaats gravel road .

See the Masungulo Beads & Textile –signboard on the side of the R578.