A fine selection of very rare Venetian 'Jack Reece' beads from the 1800's.
Imagine trying to transport these valuable but fragile glass beads across West Africa from Nigeria to The Gambia by public transport. In bush taxis and buses with all the perils of the bumpy roads and dangers of being squashed in amongst other passengers and baggage.
By a major miracle they survived intact, unscathed and in great condition. We are indebted to our loyal supplier Alaghi for finding and so carefully bringing us these beautiful beads.
Variously known as Jack Reece - Seleye Fubara, Seleye Jackreece or Seleye Jack Rich
these hand-blown glass beads have very special origins. Occupying a strategically important trading position on the 23 islands of the Niger Delta in Nigeria .. the Kalabari people have been actively involved in trading with Europeans for over 400 years.
According to local folklore, Seleye Fubara - the founder of the Fubara lineage within the Kalabari tribe - was presented with this type of bead soon after his birth. Called an Ila, it was unfortunately lost and tribal tradition dictated that without an Ila, he would have to have been given to another family. Luckily it was found and returned to him on the day of his forced adoption .. thereby preventing the other family taking him.
In adulthood, he became a wealthy trader, was renamed 'Jack Rich' by 19th Century English traders and was so rich that he could afford to travel to Venice where the beads were being made. He bought so many back home with him that he could afford to crush them .. both to display his wealth to his tribe and to show that these Ila were the sole property of his family.
Recent information ( Joanne B. Eicher - Beads and Beadmakers ISBN 1 85973 990 3 ) states that the few surviving beads are still ( carefully ) worn exclusively by female members of the Fubara family .. at tribal ceremonies, masquerades and childbirth celebrations .. as special decoration on their girdles and traditional 'pillbox' hats.