African traditional handmade jewelry and adornments are very special. They differ from any other folk jewels around the world. Local women and even men use plenty of them: necklaces, bracelets, earrings, anklets, etc. Beaded and bead weaving necklaces are among the most popular adornments in Africa. In Uganda, women make beaded necklaces from recycled paper. And you would never say it looking at them – they are very pretty, and colorful, and stylish.
Shortly after the sun rises in Kampala, Uganda, hands are busy at work – cooking, caring for children, and making the beads that are lifting families out of extreme poverty. Every bead is rolled by hand by a Ugandan woman, making each bead and each piece of jewelry totally unique. It is hard to believe that these beautiful beads are made of recycled paper.
Beaders get most of the supplies for their items at the local market. Women look for a colorful paper from old calendars, posters, and other printed materials. They scrutinize each page to determine which will make the most striking beads.
First, a woman traces long triangles onto a piece of paper, then carefully cuts the paper. The length and width of the triangle will determine if the bead is long and slender or thick and chunky. Once she has the strips of paper, she starts rolling them into tight circles, starting from the large end of the triangle and rolling towards the tip.
Some beaders roll the paper around a pin to ensure an even opening. A craftswoman takes great care to ensure that each bead is symmetrical and has a gentle curve. She puts a drop of glue on the tip of the triangle to secure the bead.
Once she has rolled several hundred beads, she will string them together and apply sealant. Each bead has two layers of sealant to make it water-resistant and glossy. The beads are then hung to dry in the warm Ugandan sun.
The craftswoman then takes the finished beads and begins to create the final product. She must pair the paper beads with small glass beads of various colors to create gorgeous and vibrant combinations. Although each bead only takes 10 to 15 seconds to roll, the entire process from start to finish can take over a week. In that time, a woman can make dozens of items.
Ugandan beaded necklaces are great jewelry pieces because you can feel in each item the hands of the woman who created it. And also, they are a part of African folk culture and add the Ugandan local flavor to any clothing.