The exhibition on the aesthetic and meaning of beadwork focuses for the first time on women as artists. Whether in the shape of fine ornaments, impressive masks, or royal stools – bead art from southern, eastern and western Africa is admired for the delicacy of its workmanship and the diversity of styles.

Manufactured in Europe for the African market from the 17th century on, glass beads are indicative of the early stages of globalization. However, glass beads never merely served decorative or ornamental purposes; the colours and designs also convey intricate messages about age, gender, and identity of the persons wearing the pieces.

With the Mottas collection, an undisclosed treasure trove has found its way to the Museum Rietberg which both adds to and enhances the existing Africa collection. In the exhibition old beadworks are juxtaposed with contemporary positions from South Africa. To this day, this significant cultural heritage remains a source of inspiration for artists and fashion designers.