Haas Brothers cloak Afreaks monsters in colourful beads
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Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz dress Afreaks monsters in colourful beads

Los Angeles artists the Haas Brothers have worked with South African artisans to make a family of sheep-sized fantasy creatures covered with patterned beadwork.

Afreaks by Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz
Photograph by Marcus Fairs/Dezeen

Traditional beading techniques often used to create kitsch souvenirs were re-appropriated for the Haas Brothers' Afreaks range.

Art and design duo Simon and Niki Haas were paired with beading company Monkeybiz through South African design platform Southern Guild, which helps to promote local designers.

Afreaks by Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz
Photograph by Marcus Fairs/Dezeen

"Traditionally beads were used not only to adorn the body, but as a measure of value in ritual and economic exchange between locals and foreigners," said a statement from Monkeybiz. "In traditional African rituals, a fine bead necklace or beaded piece is treasured because it is thought to impart spiritual energy."

Afreaks by Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz

"With society taking up a more modern way of life and moving into the cities many of these traditions have fallen away, together with the old beading techniques and culture," it added. "Monkeybiz is leading the revival of this venerable tradition by bringing to it a fresh, modern aesthetic."

Afreaks by Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz

Monkeybiz has a network of 450 artisans, but selected 10 beaders to help the twin brothers to realise the creatures, collaborating full-time in a studio space. The project provided a stable income for the craftspeople, who usually work ad-hoc.

"We embarked on this project understanding it as a journey rather than a means to produce a product, so these objects serve more as records of the most beautiful meeting of minds we could have asked for than as objects with any concrete function," said a statement from the Haas Brothers.

Afreaks by Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz

"We present the beauty that is the spirit of joy that humans, no matter their circumstance, are capable of producing. We are designing a new vernacular for this classic craft with the understanding that a person's creativity is their most valuable resource," added the brothers.

Exhibited at the Guild Design Fair in Cape Town last month, the range currently includes five colourful characters that are approximately the size of small sheep.

Afreaks by Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz

Beads are sewn tightly to the bodies in patterns, as well as hung in looser loops and clustered into balls to create different textural effects.

A mainly green bovine-esque creature called John Lith-Cow has blue and red spots across its back, and a pink and purple striped chest.

Afreaks by Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz

Two similar animals – Tail-or Swift and Tail-or Splif – both have oversized noses shaped like The Muppets character Gonzo. Resting on large bent front legs and straight back legs, the two have thin wiggly tails.

Lilac Fungul-Iver sports a turquoise beard and a series of protuberances along its spine, while Al Gor-Illa is striped from head to toe.

Afreaks by Haas Brothers and Monkeybiz

The second edition of the Guild Design Fair took place at The Lookout on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town from 25 February to 1 March, coinciding with the Design Indaba conference.