Leg Ring

1870-1880 (made)
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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. 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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Coiled brass and copper wire
Brief Description
One of a pair of leg rings of coiled brass and copper wire, Zulu, South Africa, ca. 1870-1880
Physical Description
A circlet of coiled brass wire; the coils expand in three places and are bound round with copper wire.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 12.1cm
Style
Credit line
Given by A. L. Byrne
Object history
Accessions register entry - 'Leg bangles, two, of brass and copper wire. A circlet of coiled brass wire; the coils expand in three places and are bound round with copper wire. 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
See - 'Prestige Ornaments, The use of brass in the Zulu kingdom', Carolee G. Kennedy, African Arts, vol. 24, no. 3, July 1991
Summary
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. 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.
Associated Object
Collection
Accession Number
1607-1903

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record createdSeptember 26, 2007
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