Not currently on display at the V&A

Arm Ring

ca. 1850 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Bronze jewellery and personal objects (amasongo) were designed to show social status and wealth. Museum documentation suggests that this arm ring (amasongo) was taken from the body of Mzilikazi (also spelt Mosilikatze, ca.1790–1868), a southern African leader who founded the Matabele (Ndebele) kingdom in present-day Zimbabwe. A letter written by the donor to the Museum on 18 January 1898 notes that the arm ring ‘was taken off the skeleton of Moselekatze [sic] … when his grave was opened … I can vouch for the authenticity of the bangle as it was given me when I was at Bulawayo in [18]96 by the man who opened the grave’. Mzilikazi had been given a king’s funeral and his body placed in a cave at Entumbane, on the northern periphery of the Matopo Hills.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Cast bronze
Brief Description
Solid bronze arm ring, removed from the body of the Matabele (Ndebele) leader Mzilikazi (ca.1790-1868), Zimbabwe, ca.1850
Physical Description
Solid bronze arm ring, oval in shape and flattened on each side.
Dimensions
  • At widest point diameter: 9.5cm
  • Thickness: 0.7cm
  • Depth: 0.5cm
Style
Credit line
Given by Major F. A. Fortescue
Object history
Accessions register entry - 'Bangle of bronze, oval in shape and flattened on each side; said to have been taken from the skeleton of Moseleskatze on the opening of his grave at Bulawayo, Matabeleland, South Africa. Given by Major F.A. Fortescue.'

Letter enclosed: "69 Eaton Terrace, Jan. 18 1898, Dear Mr Clarke, I am sending by the bearer who brings this a small parcel, containing a bangle, the history of which is that it was taken off the skeleton of Moselekatze [name much amended by a second hand] (I think that is how the name is spelt) when his grave was opened. Some buttons which were recently exhibited in the Museum of Bulawayo were found at the same time. The bangle contains a certain percentage of gold and I was told resembled the metal used for ornaments by the Phoenicians; of this you will be a better judge than I am. I can vouch for the authenticity of the bangle as it was given me when I was at Bulawayo in '96 by the man who opened the grave. I shall be very glad to give it to the Museum, if you consider it worthy. Yours truly, (Signed) F.A. Fortescue."
Summary
Bronze jewellery and personal objects (amasongo) were designed to show social status and wealth. Museum documentation suggests that this arm ring (amasongo) was taken from the body of Mzilikazi (also spelt Mosilikatze, ca.1790–1868), a southern African leader who founded the Matabele (Ndebele) kingdom in present-day Zimbabwe. A letter written by the donor to the Museum on 18 January 1898 notes that the arm ring ‘was taken off the skeleton of Moselekatze [sic] … when his grave was opened … I can vouch for the authenticity of the bangle as it was given me when I was at Bulawayo in [18]96 by the man who opened the grave’. Mzilikazi had been given a king’s funeral and his body placed in a cave at Entumbane, on the northern periphery of the Matopo Hills.
Bibliographic Reference
Object subject of a V&A web story 'Arm ring of an African leader' [http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/periods_styles/hiddenhistories/arm_ring/index.html]
Collection
Accession Number
254-1898

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record createdAugust 28, 2007
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