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Monkeybiz is a non-profit income-generating bead project founded in January 2000 by ceramic artists Barbara Jackson, Shirley Fintz and Mathapelo Ngaka-Mtati. Monkeybiz focuses on women's economic development and has established a vibrant community of more than 400 bead artists, many of whom are the sole breadwinners within their households. Through creating sustainable employment, Monkeybiz focuses on women in the most economically under-resourced areas of South Africa. Monkeybiz has transformed the beaded arts market in South Africa. Each Monkeybiz artwork is unique and is signed by the artist, ensuring that individual artists receive recognition for their work. All of the profits from the sales of artworks are reinvested back into community services including food vouchers and a burial fund for artists and their families. Monkeybiz artwork is sold worldwide in a variety of well-known shops as well as on the website:

The Monkeybiz Bead Project began as a shared vision among the three artists in late 1999, when Mathapelo Ngaka-Mtati, then a domestic worker and part-time

student at the late Barbara Jackson's Cape Town ceramic studio, approached Jackson and fellow ceramic artist Shirley Fintz with some beaded bracelets that her mother, Makatiso, had made. Recognizing the need for job creation and convinced of the possibility for economic development through the arts, Jackson and Fintz gave Ngaka a bowlful of glass beads, thread, and two beaded ANC dolls that Jackson had purchased at the 1994 Grahamstown Arts Festival. When Ngaka returned to the ceramics studio with a small doll that she and her mother had beaded, Jackson and Fintz were hooked.

Over the past 17 years, this thriving women's initiative has established a vibrant and growing community of nearly 400 bead artists. Monkeybiz provides beads, thread, cotton and frames for the artists, who are then paid for every piece of work presented. For those who require skills training, workshops are organised within the communituy. Monkeybiz then markets the artworks in galleries, shops worldwide, online and through Social Media.

Promoting Socially Responsible Tourism and Export
Monkeybiz has transformed the beaded arts market in South Africa. Departing from the culture of mass produced curio craft, each Monkeybiz artwork is unique and will not be repeated. Monkeybiz artworks have appeared in major domestic and international museums and galleries.

The MonkeyBiz Vision
The Monkeybiz vision is to build an iconic, world renowned brand with all proceeds from the sales of the beadwork returned directly to the communities and the bead artists' benefit.

Monkeybiz has 3 main principles and goals:

  1. To empower women financially both personally and within their communities. Many women are breadwinners and by working at home are able to cut costs for transport and child minders and remain homemakers while working.
  2. Monkeybiz are reviving the art of beadwork in South Africa using the traditional technique of bead and thread. Each beader is given artistic licence to produce the artwork of her choice
  3. Monkeybiz provides a platform for crafters to become artists in their own right,  each piece is signed and buyers have the opportunity of collecting a specific beaders work, thus affording some artists the “collectable” status with an increase in the payment for each of their pieces. Monkeybiz also works in collaboration with other world famous artists taking our project to new levels of recognition within the art world
Sustainable Development

The project uses recycled off-cuts from clothing manufacturers as the filler for the beaded dolls and animals.

Black Economic Empowerment

Legislation passed in South Africa in 2003 encourages firms to adopt Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) strategies that promote diversity in the management and ownership of businesses. Monkeybiz is proud to have achieved the second highest BEE accreditation rating (660) in South Africa.


How You Can Help?

Financial Donations


Support an Artist
For approximately R4000 or USD340 you can sponsor a workshop for 6 beaders i.e.: beginner beaders or creative workshops to name a few

Food Vouchers
Good nutrition is vital in poverty alleviation for people who do not have the time or resources to eat properly. For approximately R250 or USD30 you can buy a food shopping voucher for a household.

Volunteering & Internship
Through the years, many volunteers and interns contributed their time, knowledge and services on a regular basis to Monkeybiz. If you would like to use your time to work with Monkeybiz, please visit our website at and download the application form.

Purchase Products
Every sale at Monkeybiz assists an artist so you can help by buying Monkeybiz products! We are a non-profit organisation and all proceeds of the sales from our bead art go back to the bead art community. You can buy products online or place your order via email/telephonically or buy products at one of the stores listed in the retail store locator on our website  Visit the dedicated Monkeybiz retail outlet at 61 Wale Street situated in the historic Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town, South Africa.

The Current Team
Mathapelo Ngaka-Mtati - Co-founder and Community Director:
Kate Carlyle - General Manager:
Gemma Orkin - Creative Director:
Kathleen Mclachlan - Sales and Customer Executive:
Odile Lee - Financial Controller:
Sakhumzi Makaula - Retail Manager:
Cashier Msomekwa - General Studio
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