Originally created as far back as Egypt’s Second Dynasty, metal wire has been a commodity of status and a valuable trade item among Africa’s indigenous cultures since ancient times. Wire anklets and bracelets found in African archaeological excavations indicate that these artifacts were often associated with burials, offering a hint at the prestige they were accorded. But not until the arrival of another great invention could wire and color be blended into art.
In the 1950s, resourceful Zulu artisans discovered and began to use a new material to replace grass in their woven izimbenge (beer pot covers). The thin, spaghetti-like wires found inside telephone cables--each copper wire covered with a thin jacket of brightly colored insulation--afforded these artists a rich, rainbow-like palette for their creations. By the 1980s, the insulation on the wires had improved in quality and longevity, allowing the craft of weaving recycled telephone wire to evolve into fine art.
The four works featured in this handsome notecard assortment are courtesy of the BAT shop in Durban, South Africa. The BAT shop is affiliated with the Bartel Arts Trust, a nonprofit community arts center promoting South Africa’s emerging artists. Sixteen full-color 6 x 6 in. blank notecards (four each of four styles) with white envelopes in a decorative box. ISBN 0-7649-3713-8. Square cards require extra postage.