N g u n i   (s e c o n d   h a l f   1 9 t h   c e n t u r y )
Beaded leather bag with label 'Zulu medicine bag'

56 x 12cm

This piece of beadwork is unusual in its form and in terms of the design of the beadwork. The nineteenth-century label, inscribed 'Zulu medicine bag', affirms the age of the object, although it is difficult to be certain either that it is specifically Zulu or that it is a medicine bag. The term 'Zulu' was widely used from the nineteenth century until surprisingly recently to describe almost all African art from south-east Africa, and the likelihood is that this piece originates further south from one of the groups of people living in the southern Drakensberg region. The clans associated with the Sotho were experienced skin-workers and the bead colours of pink, pale blue and white are broadly associated with this region. For a beaded leather bag with similar form and tassels, see M Stevenson and M Graham-Stewart (eds), South-east African beadwork, Cape Town, 2000, pp72-3.

2003 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.