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Zulu Woman's Hat Headdress Beaded Old South African Art

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Title Zulu Woman's Hat Headdress Beaded Old South African Art
Type of Object Hat/Headdress
Country of Origin South Africa
People Zulu
Materials human hair, beads, pigment, vegetal fibers
Approximate Age 20th century
Dimensions 5 inches H x 6.5 inches W.
Overall Condition Good
Damage/Repair General wear, loose strands, a few beads missing


Additional Information: Zulu married women always keep their heads covered in public. For ceremonial occasion, they wear elaborately woven red hats with beadwork attached.It is then sewn into the hair of the wearer. Red powder is periodically reapplied. if the dried plant happens to have tiny yellow flowers in amongst the leaves then it's impepho (Helichrysum odoratissimum) which is used primarily as a ritual incense by Zulu diviners but is also used as a perfume and insect repellant: often found in bedding and pillows as well.


Photos of women wearing such headdresses are published in Hlengiwe Dube, Zulu Beadwork Talk with Beads, AfricaDirect Inc., 2009, pp. 84, 85, 88


About the Inkehli/Isicholoheaddresses  Hlengiwe wrote: "This one has beaded headbands (umqhawazi and isembozo). It is made out of dried grass. intertwined with red cotton and human hair and covered with red ochre, which refers to the living cow and also evokes the blood of the earth.In areas such as Eshowe the headdresses are made with lots of beadwork. As a signifier of respect for the new husband and the in-law family, a woven fibre beaded headband 9Umqwazi) is added to the base of the headdress. In some areas, the ochre colour headdress is adorned with elaborately stylized beadwork decorations and studs. The width of the isiholo is about 42 cm. The word Inkehli comes from the word Khehla meaning "to be ut". It conveys the fact that the woman is no longer among the Unmarried women-amaghikiza; she belongsto the new stage of life, the married woman-umfazi.' p. 61


On p. 67 she wrote: " Previously, women never removed the headdress from their head once they got married, even when sleeping. Thus the headdress played an important part as a pillow a night. Traditionally, the Zulu woman commissioned two headdresses  before her marriage, one for herself and one for her future husband. These could be identical in design; or a woman might choose to acknowledge her husband's status by giving him a more intricately designed headdress than her own. The man sometimes used it as stool during the day." 


Recommended Reading:


Hlengiwe Dube, ZULU BEADWORK.TALKING WITH BEADS, AfricaDirect, Inc., Denver, 2009, 112 p


Jean Morris (text by Eleanor Preston-White), SPEAKING WITH BEADS. ZULU ARTS FROM SOUTHERN AFRICA


I have examined this piece and agree with the description.


Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.