Beads: Ritual and Ornamentation

  • Location: South African Museum
  • From: May 30, 2011     To: August 31, 2011
Beads: Ritual and Ornamentation

The small but rather beautiful ‘Beads: Ritual and Ornamentation’ exhibition features prehistoric and ethnographic beads from southern Africa. Objects on display include Nassarius kraussianus shell beads, dating to 77 000 years ago. These are among the earliest beads discovered anywhere in the world. Prehistoric beads used as grave goods are also shown. More recent beads include colourful neck ornaments, 20th century tortoise-shell cosmetic containers decorated with beads, anisidlokolo (otter-skin cap), iqhina (necklet) and an umtseke (arm ornament) worn by Xhosa diviners.

Two posters, one of men adorned with beads in ritual dancing postures, as shown in a drawing by Elisabeth Mannsfeld of a rock painting in Ngolosa, Eastern Cape (Frobenius Collection), and one of diviners at a ceremony in East London, Eastern Cape (1968), contextualize the exhibition.

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