Additional Information: This necklace is very similar to the one worn by Nelson Mandela in a portrait published in Ezakwantu: Beadwork from the Eastern Cape. Tag reads: “Xhosa necklace Ihtumbu, Xhosa man” pictured in photo’s of men and women in Vanishing Cultures of South Africa by Magubane, fig.27, p.56. Nelson Mandela is Xhosa. There is a well-known picture of him as a young man, bare chested, wearing a necklace like this one.
The Xhosa of the eastern Cape region of South Africa have a history of beadwork as long as that of the better known Zulu and Ndebele. The uses of beaded garments, bags, jewelry and objects continue until today in the rural areas. Called Icangci, this Xhosa necklace was traditionally worn by young initiates Xhosa man during dances and ceremonies as a sign of their status. Up to date both men and women were seen wearing such collars during ceremonies.
See also pictures of contemporary men and women wearing similar necklaces in Vanishing Cultures of South Africa by Peter Magubane, pages 28-30. For a similar piece see also Labelle, Marie-Louise, Beads of Life. Eastern and Southern African Beadwork from Canadian Collections, fig. 114, p. 123
Recommended Reading: Labelle, Marie-Louise, Beads of Life. Eastern and Southern African Beadwork from Canadian Collections, 2005
Peter Magubane, Vanishing Cultures of South Africa , Struik Publishers Ltd, 1998
I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.