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Very old Zulu beer pot (thought of Chris immediately !!). Made from woven reeds it is totally 'water' proofed. The small cover on the top has a bead decoration and was intended to keep flys and insects out of the beer. They made the beer in larger containers and - as needed - put it into these smaller containers. Beer is not as we know it - or, as alcoholic - it is brewed from maize and is nutritious.

I have not had an answer from the Museum re. the Isikokos (head rings) - I think we have come across an important item of knowledge - Helen, would you feel a paper is justified - and more importantly, would you be interested ?

I will continue to post old pieces from time-to-time - Google seem to be enjoying them !!!

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Mervyn,

Apologies for not posting for a while.

Re - the headrings paper...I think the idea is worth pursuing but it would need more initial research to secure a strong enough line of argument. I have found a few references to 'isicoco' in book and papers but mostly only explaining what they are, that they are removed in widowhood as a sign of mourning, and that as far back as 1924, the author of one such paper considered the wearing of such headrings 'almost extinct and found only among old men'.

Have you seen the head-ring as a 'detachable hat/wig' anywhere else apart from the images I posted? Wouldn't the way the ring was originally formed on the man's head, being effectively stuck to his scalp with insect secretion/gum, mean that the ring would stay put anyway, even if the hair follicle died and fell out?

It seems, from studying figurative sculpture alone, that the old 'rebel' Zulu tribes (the Swazi, Shangaan (Tsonga) and Ndebele) also all retained the headring as a symbol of male status.

I found this sculpture on display in the Museum, again showing off the headring. Apologies for the poor quality photograph - it is behind glass! It has a fairly interesting story behind it: it was part of a collection of carved woodwork, beadwork and shell jewellery given by an old hunter as a wedding present to Kate Theresa Escombe, daughter of the Rt. Hon. Harry Escombe who was Premier of Natal in 1897. She married Sidney Francis Gedge in 1888 and settled in England. He died when their two children were still little boys. In 1900 she married the Rev. Henry Tower (later Canon of Christchurch, Oxford). The collection was presented to the Museum by Cicely and Meriel Tower, the two daughters of her second marriage, in 1987. According to the Afri-Karner Museum Trust in Franschhoek, South Africa, they hold a similar piece, as does the Killie Campbell Collection in Durban.

It will be interesting to see if the Museum at Ulundi get back to you...\

Helen

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Mervyn,

Apologies for not posting for a while.

Re - the headrings paper...I think the idea is worth pursuing but it would need more initial research to secure a strong enough line of argument. I have found a few references to 'isicoco' in book and papers but mostly only explaining what they are, that they are removed in widowhood as a sign of mourning, and that as far back as 1924, one author considered the wearing of such headrings 'almost extinct and found only among old men' (Braunholtz in MAN, 1924).

Have you seen the head-ring as a 'detachable hat/wig' anywhere else apart from the images I posted? Wouldn't the way the ring was originally formed on the man's head, being effectively stuck to his scalp with insect secretion/gum, mean that the ring would stay put anyway, even if the hair follicle died and fell out?

It seems, from studying figurative sculpture alone, that the old 'rebel' Zulu tribes (the Swazi, Shangaan (Tsonga) and Ndebele) also all retained the headring as a symbol of male status.

I found this sculpture on display in the Museum, again showing off the headring. Apologies for the poor quality photograph - it is behind glass! It has a fairly interesting story behind it: it was part of a collection of carved woodwork, beadwork and shell jewellery given by an old hunter as a wedding present to Kate Theresa Escombe, daughter of the Rt. Hon. Harry Escombe who was Premier of Natal in 1897. She married Sidney Francis Gedge in 1888 and settled in England. He died when their two children were still little boys. In 1900 she married the Rev. Henry Tower (later Canon of Christchurch, Oxford). The collection was presented to the Museum by Cicely and Meriel Tower, the two daughters of her second marriage, in 1987. According to the Afri-Karner Museum Trust in Franschhoek, South Africa, they hold a similar piece, as does the Killie Campbell Collection in Durban.

It will be interesting to see if the Museum at Ulundi get back to you...

Helen

Edited by helen

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Helen - lovely post of the carving. Sorry I'm late answering - thought I had at the time ! I think it is meant to be a milk holder - I mentioned that they had larger ones in the kraal. However, I suppose it could also be for water - but, not I think, beer.

With Isikoko's, I am by no means certain that they would stay on if the hair had died - this is why more research needs to be carried out. So very little is known about them - I was 'talking' to a member this morning on Ingxothchas (brass arm bands awards ) - same problem - they are so rare that modern Zulus have never even heard of them. This problem is not limited to tribes around the World. I have British pieces in my collection, that again, have been forgotten and are only likely to be found in a museum - and only then, if more than one exists...

I hope you will be able to keep posting more of these early pieces - they are very interesting. Also - said he hopefully - did you find any truncheons or, tipstaffs ?

Very best wishes Mervyn

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Following on Helen's splendid carving with the milk or, water holder, I am adding a few more beer pots. I posted a short while ago a good example of a reed woven pot - these are two clay ones. Being quite old they have the good incised decoration - not like the modern ones. They would also have used a woven cover, decorated with beads. I will show them together to give comparative size and separately to show detail.

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There is so much to show in Zulu artefacts and culture, that I think it worthwhile adding the occasional post to this thread.

The item shown here is a traditional DAGGA pipe ( marijuana) used mainly by a group of senior chiefs sitting in the kraal. Dagga grows freely in Sth. Africa and can be a problem - the police use helicopters and small planes to set fire to the hidden fields or, drop pesticide. A large proportion of the drug sold in Europe, probably originates here - and much of it from KwaZulu Natal.

The main body of the pipe is an antelope horn - from a Nyala. They are strange in that the female is a light tan colour and not very big - but the male , is much larger and a grey colour with white stripes - almost a different species. The dagga is put in the mouth of the horn and inhaled through the mouth pipe, which is put in the horn through a hole. The shaft is wood, but the mouth piece is carved from stone.The pipe would be passed around the gathering - however, if the owner wanted to smoke on his own, he would put the leaf in the stone part and inhale through the end of the shaft.

This example probably dates back well over a hundred years. You can always tell users - 'dopey' looking with red eyes ! And it can often be smelt from people sitting on benches in the street...

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Back on Page 2 , Mike Huxley showed some interesting beadwork brought back from Zululand over 100 years ago. I promised to add some more - herewith. There are two hanging necklaces , plus some neck bands and arm/ankle bands. The bands were often worn by the warriors and the neck example with the several folds is a particularly good example. Beads were bought from traders, but in the early days the string was woven from the stem of a palm leaf.

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Seems a long time since we added to our Zulu thread. This is an interesting Kraal stick for an older Chief - would also have a use as an Iqubanga - or, Kraal knobkerry. The shape is most unusual in that it has been made to look like a thigh bone - with the knuckle end as a thumb rest. Probably turn-of 20th. C - or, perhaps even older.

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Going through some original 1879 copies of The Illustrated London News, I came across a number of engravings printed from drawings made in the field. I will add them to this thread over the next few weeks - they show some very interesting scenes.

This one , for example, shows the cooks preparing food for King Cetswayo - his main sleeping rondavel is in the background - note the hides spread to keep it waterproof. However, what is more important are the two bodyguards standing outside the the entrance. They are from his personal Impi and wore very impressive regalia. The leg adornements are combed sheepskin - however, the capes and headress are ostrich feathers.

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This is an interesting scene - shows a group of off duty officers studying a map. Remember, this is 130 years ago and we know very little about behaviour, dress, habits etc.. Pictures such as this , are in fact, important social reference material. For example - what is the strange stocking like hat several are wearing ?

Edited by Mervyn Mitton

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ZULU SOCIAL HISTORY:

With the nature of this thread being an occasional one, an article in this morning's paper has prompted me to add. It is self explanatory and has come about because not everyone follows the 'old' customs and the Police were called-in as outsiders thought the girl was being taken advantage of :

The next stage - when both sets of parents are agreed that the couple are ready for marriage - is to have the

iLOBOLA ceremony. Zulus still pay a dowry , but in their case it is the reverse from Europe - the man pays the Father of the girl to compensate for the loss of his daughter.

The amount is an agreed one between the parents and is very expensive - always quoted in cows (the way the Zulus used to measure wealth ) it can easily be 15 or, 16 cows + money and other items. Since a cow is over Rands 2000 (£1600 $2500) you can appreciate that it takes the young man a long time to save-up - most Zulu marriages take place in their 30's - unless they have rich parents.

For better, or , for worse - the iLobola custom is dying away, it is mainly the rural people who preserve the tradition. However, the President has just taken his 5th. wife - and being Zulu , paid iLobola to her parents and the ceremony was held in the full traditional way.

What happens if you live in a town and haven't the money - I'm afraid they just 'get' on with life , like the rest of the World .

(article: The Sunday Tribune - Durban)

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hi Mervyn,

Interesting stuff about the Zulu courtship practices!

I have something you may be able to help with. We had an email from someone with some photos of a wooden club she has in her possession. She said she believed it to be a Zulu knobkerrie and to date to the time of the Zulu wars. She didn't say how she acquired it nor how big it is. We couldn't find much comparable in our collections. These are the only (not great) photos she sent - can you shed any light on it, at least whether you believe it to be Zulu or not?

Many thanks,

Helen

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Hi - Helen. Hope marriage is still agreeing with you ?

The item is Zulu - it is a fighting stick - NOT an Iwisa or, Knobkerry.

Fighting sticks are not usually as well carved as this - however, I don't dispute her dating it as far back as the Zulu War ( 1879). They are intended for close fighting and are just as deadly as a knobkerrie. Young men start learning the moves as early as four years of age.

This one has the Amazumpa design carved at the head. This is locally known as the Wart design - since it looks like a wart - and used to be reserved for Royalty. Zulus are part of the Nguni people and gradually came down through Africa over hundreds of years. Almost certainly the design was picked-up in West Africa - where it is known as a Cicatrice. It represents the skin of a crocodile and young men living in those Countries still have it carved in their face as a tattoo.

I know Museums don't supply values - however, I would think £200 ($3200) at auction.

Dare I mention the word - truncheons ............

Mervyn

I should have added that it will be about two feet in length (60 cm) - maybe a little more. It is pointed at both ends for 'stabbing' front and back.

Edited by Mervyn Mitton

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