Global Knot at the Group Exhibition KNOT/KNOOP at the Gallery of University of Stellenbosch

This hangman’s knot was created with seed beads, bugle beads and hand-cut beads. Beads are an inherent part of global innovation and trade, as well as the socio-economic history and development of the African continent.

For centuries beads were used (as currency) to barter with Africa, and exchanged for raw materials, such as animals, hides, ivory and traditional artifacts, and even in the slave trade.

Since prehistoric times ropes have played an integral part in daily lives and development of humans and are used for lifting, carrying, attaching, pulling, hunting, fishing, tying together, harnessing animals and building shelters. 

These ancient technologies probably preceded man’s mastery of fire, the innovation of the axe, or even the development of the wheel. It is unbelievable that hardly any significant technology developed over the past 250 000 years, did not include the use of ropes and knots.

In civilized’ society, ropes and knots have been applied, not only in binding together humans as slaves or to ring church bells, but also in knotting the hangman’s noose, for the purpose of executions. Furthermore, this same knot is also used by a person to end his or her own life.

In 2019, The Guardian newspaper recognized “the climate emergency as the defining issue of our lifetimes”.

Enormous efforts are made to stop the continuous destruction of our natural habitat, bring an end to on-going violence and wars, alleviate poverty and hunger, and to combat corruption that funds and ties together malfeasance and misery.

The world over, citizens are protesting and action groups campaigning for a variety of environmental causes as well as to promote awareness, equality, choice and fairness.

A modern “civilized” society relies on individuals remaining informed in order to make better choices.  Choices principally based on the interest and well-being of the planet and society at large, rather than the pure pursuit of profit.

It demands that governments and the corporate world be more transparent and responsible; and be held accountable for their actions and decisions, or negligence and omissions.

The unfortunate truth is, that environmentalists and academics in the field are unanimous in their outlook, that, at present, not enough is not done to avoid the destruction of natural ecosystems that fundamentally underpin and support the delicate balance that ties us together, nor avert the logical consequence: a collapse of life as a whole, on planet earth.    

The above concerns, discord and disparity in human choices and actions, motivated me to create a hangman’s knot. It serves as symbol (or warning bell) of man’s destructive behavior.

I hope to create awareness that man’s intrinsically selfish behavior and unjust treatment of people and planet, lead to protest, strife, and the continuous destruction of the nature. The great ironic twist, is that as humans, our fate is tied together to the planet. Consequently, man’s destruction of the planet is self-destructive behavior, and may tragically lead us to the end of our tether…


Elbé Coetsee




Louis Janse van Vuuren created an artwork for Hermanus Fyn Arts Festival in 2016.  In 2019 he requested Elbé Coetsee and Mogalakwena Craft Art beaders and embroiderers to interpret this painting in beads for this exhibition, KNOT/NODUM/KNOOP. 


Elbé and beaders embraced the creative opportunity and sourced a variety of beads. Beads from France, Czechoslovakia, India, and glass beads, seed beads, bugle beads, silver-lined beads were all carefully selected from well-known South African bead expert and dealer, Stephen Long.


A photograph of Van Vuuren’s artwork was digitally printed on cotton bull denim fabric and stretched over a frame. This enabled Elbé and beaders a suitable background to work on.  The beads were meticulously and singularly stitched onto the backing with beading thread. More than 52 000 beads were hand sewn (knotted) onto the backing fabric.


Elbé chose to illustrate that a butterfly could have flown to sit on the art piece…therefore the real butterfly.



Elbé Coetsee


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