Upcoming Exhibitions


Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence

On view February 1 – April 25, 2020

Zanele Muhloli, Portrait of Ntombephi NtobelaNtombephi “Induna” Ntobela, Tribute to My Sister Bongiswa, 2010, glass beads sewn onto fabricZanele Muhloli, Portrait of Zandile Ntobela

The Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts is pleased to present Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence, a spectacular overview of a new form of bead art, the ndwango (“cloth”), developed by a community of women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The plain black fabric that serves as a foundation for the Ubuhle women’s exquisite beadwork is reminiscent of the Xhosa headscarves and skirts that many of them wore growing up. By stretching this textile like a canvas, the artists use colored Czech glass beads to transform the flat cloth into a contemporary art form of remarkable visual depth. Using skills handed down through generations, and working in their own unique style “directly from the soul” (in the words of artist Ntombephi Ntobela), the women create abstract as well as figurative subjects for their ndwangos.

Ubuhle means “beauty” in the Xhosa and Zulu languages. It describes the shimmering quality of light on glass and its special spiritual significance for the Xhosa people. From a distance, each panel of the ndwango seems to present a continuous surface; but as the viewer moves closer and each tiny individual bead catches the light, the meticulous skill and labor that went into each work—the sheer scale of ambition—becomes stunningly apparent. A single panel can take more than 10 months to complete.

Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence was developed by the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, DC, in cooperation with Curators Bev Gibson, Ubuhle Beads, and James Green, and is organized for tour by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.  The local presentation of this exhibition is sponsored, in part, by Elizabeth “Becky” Price.  Select educational programs generously supported by the Bob and Jan Case Endowment for Student Enrichment.

Images: Zanele Muhloli, Portrait of Ntombephi Ntobela, April 2013. © Zanele Muhloli/Ubuhle Artists; Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela, Tribute to My Sister Bongiswa, 2010, glass beads sewn onto fabric; Zanele Muhloli, Portrait of Zandile Ntobela, April 2013. © Zanele Muhloli/Ubuhle Artists.


Figuratively Speaking

May 23 – August 22, 2020

 Art Quilt by Alice Beasley

Through representation of the human form, Figuratively Speaking explores perspectives on social identity and displacement in the medium of art quilting.  Featuring notable work by Alice Beasley, Hollis Chatelain, Carolyn Crump, Chawne Kimber, and others – this exhibition invites artists to give voice to critical conversations in contemporary artmaking and beyond.  

Image: Alice Beasley, Floating Into the Heat of the Moon, 2019. Photo courtesy of the artist. 


Spotlight on Student Fiber Trends 2020

September 19 – December 12, 2020

 Title image for fall 2020 exhibition

Since 2012, Spotlight on Student Fiber Trends - an exhibition organized by the Atlanta-based Southeast Fiber Alliance - has showcased the talent of contemporary fiber art by college/university students in the Southeast. The Ruth Funk Center is pleased to present this juried exhibition and join the Southeast Fiber Alliance in celebrating the next generation of textile artists.

Image: Katie Rant, Eternal Collection. Photo courtesy of the Southeast Fiber Alliance.