African beads used to make many 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. Objects termed “trash” are instead used to create beautiful beads, transforming them into beautiful products for sale. Essentially, this practice turns trash into cash.
Making beads is a labor-intensive project. First, creators collect waste paper materials from trash centers and offices. Then, they cut paper into triangular strips; the size of the strip depends on the size and shape of the desired bead. After, they form the bead by rolling the paper using small rods, starting with the back and ending with the triangular side. Finally, they seal it with glue.
The glue dries for a while. Lastly, after the glue dries, 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 transform into many lovely items.
Creators then sell the beads, the proceeds of which improve the lives of many, particularly women—especially those with no formal education. Part II of this article will elaborate on the people who create the beads and items – and the impact this work has on their lives.