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AMAGUGU II (article first published : 2000-03-10)

The African Art Centre is currently hosting a prestigious exhibition of antique Zulu beadwork and artefacts. Sponsored by KZN Tourism, it is a sequel to an earlier show of the same nature titled Amagugu. The emphasis for this year’s Amagugu II/Treasures is on superb quality and uniqueness. Apart from antique Zulu beadwork dating from 1920 to 1990, the exhibition includes donkani (dancing sticks), amabhaxa (mat racks), izingqoko (wooden meat trays), izinkezo (spoons), amathunga (milkpails), izinkamba (beer pots) and isitebes (eating mats).

The collection of these treasures has been undertaken by dedicated field collectors who have had to brave the crossing of swollen rivers due to the recent flooding, making collection work on foot through rural countryside hazardous. These artefacts of Zulu culture offer a rare glimpse of a rich cultural life which still continues today in altered forms.

The significance of carved wooden domestic utensils in the continuity of the culture of cattle and milking of the cows is reflected by the carved motif of amansumpa or "wart" designs which decorate these pieces. The importance of the ancestors is reflected in pieces such as a carved wooden headrest used as a pillow. This illustrated the complementary role of a man and woman in the homestead as the headrest was a gift from the bride to her husband. The piece was carved by the bride's father in her home area and formed the link with her husband's ancestors who communicated with the living through dreams. Thus it was expected that the headrest ("the support of dreams") should be in material form and beautifully decorated.

Each piece tells a fascinating story and Hlenge Dube of the African Art Centre, who has been recording this information, will give a talk on the exhibition on March 15 from 13h00 to 14h00.

Amagugu II/Treasures runs until March 24 at the African Art Centre on the first floor of Tourist Junction in Pine Street. More details from (031) 304-7915.




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