96-Year-Old Navajo Grandmother Goes Viral on TikTok for Her Beadwork

 

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Beadwork is an aesthetically beautiful form of art, but it also represents so much more than what's on the surface. The practice of beading is tethered to a rich history and culture within Indigenous communities. Unique to each tribe, the art form is passed down through generations. Many older generations continue to create beaded designs, but 96-year-old Navajo beadworker Annette Bilagody has amassed a particularly stunning body of work. Her vibrant and intricate pieces continue to keep this long-held tradition relevant and an esteemed expression of culture. The art form has also provided a way for Bilagody’s family members to remain close to her. This is especially true of her granddaughter Attiya Bennet, who is a fellow beadworker herself.

Recently, Attiya realized that the beautiful craftsmanship of her grandmother’s work needed to be shared with the world. “Every time I would visit my grandma, I saw she had bundles of necklaces piling up,” Attiya recounts. She then asked her grandmother if she could take a few photos of her work and put them on social media to sell. The first post advertising her grandmother's creations had sold out in a mere 30 minutes. For the second posting, $1,000 was earned. Bilagody, amazed, remarked how it was the most she had ever made in her life off of her beadwork. “Usually I get a little bit of money from one sale here and another there,” she admits. “Thank you to whoever bought my jewelry, and may it make you strong.”

 

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Bilagody’s family revealed that she bought a bucket of KFC chicken and put the rest of the $1,000 earning into savings. Attiya, excited by the new online business, and the connection to her culture and her grandmother, was just getting started. “I see many comments on my posts because grandmas are important to all of us,” she says. “People also love that I speak Navajo with my grandma on my videos. She was the one who taught me how to speak.”

Attiya helped her grandmother garner an impressive fan base on social media platforms—particularly on Instagram and TikTok. The two both feel it’s a reward being able to share the Navajo culture with others around the world. Both artists have a signature approach to the craft but Bilagody always adds a little something quirky to her pieces. “Grandma Annette loves drawing this little pig because her late husband taught her how to do it, explains Attiya. “So she remembers him this way and to keep his memory alive. We love you Cheii.”

This family business—which goes by the moniker Teebeebeads—is constantly adding new pieces of work for people to own and enjoy. To purchase one of Bilagody's beaded creations, head over to her online shop.

96-year-old Navajo beadworker Annette Bilagody makes beautiful handmade jewelry.

 

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Thanks to her granddaughter, she now proudly sells her work online.

 

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Every purchase comes with a special drawing of a pig she learned from her late husband.

 

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Here's a heartwarming video of Bilagody receiving her very first earnings from her online sales.

 

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And if all that wasn't enough, she's also become a hit on TikTok.

@teebeezAnnettebilagody.com link in my bio ##fyp♬ original sound – teebeez

Teebeebeads: Facebook | Instagram | TikTok
Annette Bilagody: Website | Shop
Attiya Bennet : FacebookInstagram
h/t: [UpWorthy]

All images via Teebeebeads.

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Sonya Harris

Sonya Harris is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a multi-platform artist and storyteller based in Seattle, Washington. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and has worked in Audio Production for Seattle NPR station KUOW. With a passion for storytelling in podcasting, Sonya is also an avid lover of tea, watercolors, photography, and film. She considers herself a voracious learner and seeker of the peculiar, whimsical, and inspiring.

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