A COLLECTION OF NDEBELE BEADWORK
South Africa, circa 1920 - 980
a.o. “Love letters”, made by a girl for the young man she loves, “Lighabi”, small skirt with tassels worn by young children, “Isiphephetu”, stiff skirt for marriageable girls after their initiation, “Linga Koba”, long tears, worn by the mother after the initiation of her son, “Ijogolo”, bead skirt with five flaps worn by married women and supposed to represent the mother and her children, “Lighabi”, various necklaces, a dance staff and “Isapaji”, beaded leather purse, “Isithimba”, a half-round skirt of goats hide trimmed with beads, worn at the back by a marriageable girl to accentuate the movement of her buttocks, “Icanci”, a collar mainly favoured by older women, “Nguba”, marriage blanket worn by married women after their marriage has been confirmed by the birth of a child.
Collection Hans van Drumpt, Maastricht
The Ndebele is a small Zulu speaking clan living in a few small settlements east of Pretoria, famous for its beadwork and mural paintings.
In the 19th century, the Ndebele kingdom was a powerful people living in their stronghold at the Mapoch’s Caves beating off several attacks by the Boer Republic. In 1883 they were finally beaten by the Boers, driven from their land and severely punished for their long resistance.
Although Francois Levaillant (1753-1824), a French explorer and ornithologist who travelled widely in South Africa in the early seventeen eighties, illustrated Khoikhoi women with beadwork skirts in his books, the characteristic Ndebele patterns in beadwork and mural painting appear to be rather recent. Very little is known from before 1900 and most is after 1940. During the first part of the 20th century, the patterns on the garments the females made were geometric on a white background.
In the fifties, the females started to use many different colours and more figurative designs, often based on the form of their houses. The beadwork garments are mainly worn by the women during ceremonies indicating their age, marital status, whether they had children, etc.
Hans van Drumpt (1939-2015), a painter and a collector of African art yearly visited Kwa Ndebele from the mid-eighties and from then on started collecting Ndebele beadwork. He got to know the Ndebele princess Franzina Ndimande and her daughter Angelina, both well-known mural painters and invited them in 1991 to decorate the new wing of the main building of the University of Maastricht with Ndebele mural paintings. In 1994 the princess and her daughter were invited by the Kruithuis Museum in s’Hertogenbosch to decorate specially made large ceramic objects and 250 square meters of museum walls with mural paintings for an exhibition called “AmaNdebele – kleursignalen uit Zuid Afrika” (July 17-November 6)
In this exhibition part of Hans van Drumpt’s collection of Ndebele beadwork was exhibited.