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Africa Direct

Zulu Beaded Belt Izingcu South African Art

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Title Zulu Beaded Belt Izingcu South African Art
Type of Object Beadwork, waist piece
Country of Origin South Africa
People Zulu
Materials Beads, raffia, metal
Approximate Age 20th Century
Dimensions Width: 2.75 Inches
Depth: 30.5 Inches
40 inches with straps
Overall Condition Fair
Damage/Repair Frayed strap

Zulu beadwork waist piece, South Africa

Additional Information:

Zulu beadwork has been valued as currency, as decoration, and as a marker of identity. Disingwayo the uncle of Shaka and Shaka himself, controlled the bead trade and monopolized not only the beads themselves but also the colors and designs available to groups within Shaka’s control. Beadwork became a status symbol and an important item of personal expression as well. Stylistic variations of beadwork such as pattern, color and color sequence indicate area or group affiliation. Colors and patterns take on more personally expressive meanings as in the case of Zulu “love letters.” Recently beadwork has become a symbol of political identity as well, with color and pattern indicating political affiliation. Instead of beads being worn only by the conservative, traditional members of the community, wearing beadwork is increasingly being seen as reclaiming a cultural identity.