African beads which are used to make a number of beautiful items – necklaces, bracelets, earrings, purses to name a few – can be made from different materials such as eggshells, ivory, bone, and other materials occurring in nature. Recently, however, discarded paper products such as flyers, posters, calendars, and magazines have been used to make beads. The use of what could be termed trash – is used to make beautiful beads which are then used to make beautiful products – which are then sold – essentially turning trash to cash.
The making of the beads is a labor-intensive project. First, waste paper materials are collected from trash centers and from offices. The paper is cut into triangular strips – the size of the strip will depend on the size and shape of the bead to be created. The second step involves forming the bead by rolling the paper using small rods starting with the back and ending with the triangular side which is then sealed with glue.
The glue is allowed to dry for a period of time. Lastly, after the glue has dried, the beads are shellacked or covered with a varnish. The varnish protects the beads from water as well as creates a sheen. From there the beads will be used to create many lovely items.
The bead products are then sold. The proceeds of which improve the lives of many, particularly women – and especially those with no formal education. Part 2 of this article will elaborate on the people who create the beads and items – and the impact this work has on their lives.