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Bracelet

Bracelet

  • Place of origin:

    South Africa (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1870-1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Coiled brass and steel wire

  • Credit Line:

    Given by A. L. Byrne

  • Museum number:

    1605-1903

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Unlike iron, copper, which is the main component of brass, was not available to the Zulu people locally in any great quantity. Instead it was acquired through European traders at Delagoa Bay (Mozambique) and traded to the Zulu by Thonga people living in the bay’s vicinity. Purchased in the form of unworked blocks, the Zulu used brass to create neck, leg and arm rings, beads and studs.

Rings of twisted or plaited brass wire (ubusenga) such as this example were made for the wrist, the upper arm and calf of the leg. The brass wire was wrapped around a core of plant fibre or animal hair to keep the ring flexible. Brass and copper beads were sometimes added as decoration. In this case, three double rings have been joined together with brass bands and a clasp, possibly for European use. The rings became popular during the reign of the Zulu leader Cetshwayo (r.1872-1879). Today they are still worn but are more frequently made of lightweight aluminium.

Physical description

Bracelet of steel and brass wire. Consisting of three double bands of coiled brass wire, alternating with two interlacing bands of steel wire similarly coiled; all joined by four triple bands of brass; the clasp is in the form of a hook and eye.

Place of Origin

South Africa (made)

Date

ca. 1870-1880 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Coiled brass and steel wire

Object history note

Displayed in "V and A Africa: Exploring Hidden Histories"
15th November 2012- 3rd February 2013
Accessions register entry - 'Bracelet of steel and brass wire. Consisting of three double bands of coiled brass wire, alternating with two interlacing bands of steel wire similarly coiled; all joined by four triple bands of brass; the clasp is in the form of a hook and eye. South African (Zulu). Gift
Given (received 8th March 1893) by A. Leicester Byrne, Esq., The Gt. Western Hotel, Bombay. Authority for acceptance: Mr. F. Grant Ogilvie's on R.P. T. 24467/1903, (file) R.P. T.19715/1903.'

Historical context note

See - 'Prestige Ornaments, The use of brass in the Zulu kingdom', Carolee G. Kennedy, African Arts, vol. 24, no. 3, July 1991

Descriptive line

Bracelet of three double bands of coiled steel and brass wire, Zulu, South Africa, ca. 1870-1880

Materials

Brass; Steel

Categories

Africa; Jewellery

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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