Friday, June 03, 2005

Selling Beads

From today's Providence Journal
Sometimes the path to commerce leads from a dirt road in Africa to America's highways and byways.

In the age of eBay and impersonal electronic global trade, Ebrima Kabba travels village to village across the African continent, buying beads to sell in America.

Beads made of brass, cow bone, coral and coins, as well as silver, amber and ostrich eggs. Trade beads, still used as currency in some corners of the African continent. Beads that signify status. Beads to denote marriage. Beads to calm a vomiting baby. Lucky beads. Very old beads.

Yesterday, the 48-year-old itinerant Gambian salesman arrived at the Beadworks shop on Thayer Street and unloaded black duffel bags bursting with color, texture and history.

'Really, the business of beads is so international,' says Gray Horan, a freelance writer who recently bought the shop with longtime friend Nancy Nygreen. 'The African bead salesmen, they come and peddle their beads in a very old-fashioned way.'

. . .Kabba's arrival provided a riot of color, from the turquoise sneakers with shimmering accents that he wore on his feet, to the piles of butter-yellow amber, royal blue, and grass green beads, to the "white-fired" brown and white cow bone, and shiny glass of every rainbow hue.

"I learned from our jewelry designers here what kinds of beads there are and how they can be used, and the African traders tell us the history," Horan said. "It's research, and I love it."

Horan said that Kabba, in particular, "has been very forthcoming" in sharing his knowledge of the history and origins of his merchandise. His beads will sell from $10 to more than $1,000, she and Nygreen said.

Traders from China and Japan also sell pearls to Horan and Nygreen.
I post this for no particular reason other than perhaps whimsy.

No comments: