18 March 2015

Identifications for the Kent and Sussex Uniques project

Huge Japanese pot with Buddhist figure on lid Horsham Museum

This vase, collected by Robert Henderson, father of the donor, is said to have been obtained in 1885 from the Higeyan monastery in Kyoto, and was thought to be ‘over 700 years old’. The donor, Emma Henderson, reported that ‘Lord Banstead .. said it was ‘raku saku’ [ie a form of decorated earthenware?]. Go to a recent blog on Horsham and the Hendersons for more detail on the family’s links with the Far East hereThe author, Revd Rupert Toovey, suggests the pot is Satsuma ware, one of the most common export wares in the late 19th century, and this fits in terms of its huge size and elaborate decoration. There are a pair of more traditional cream and gold Satsuma vases on show in a National Trust property at Polesdon-Lacey. Many Satsuma pieces are shown on the V&A Collections website, but none quite like this Horsham pot. Huge Japanese and Chinese pots were popular decorative items in many UK country houses, and Leeds has a shop interior photograph, of Kuhn and Komor’s shop, Water Street, Yokohama, probably dating to the late 1890s, showing a full range of sizes buyers could choose from. 

Shop interior photograph from the album LEEDM.F.L. 1981.066, on loan to Leeds from Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham  
Xhosa ‘three-wife’ pipe, South Africa, Maidstone Museum

The three wooden bowls on this pipe are lined in metal and the gummed label reads “Maidstone Museum. 242”. A card label says: Pipe Zulu-Kafir tribes. South-east Africa.
I found one exact match on a web search on 11 Mar 2015 here where this type is described as a ‘three  wife’ Xhosa pipe. This website illustrates several different types of pipes from different cultural groups. What the previous website calls Xhosa here they call Xhosa / Thembu / Pondo, and you can see that the triple bowl one here is a version of this. The well-known photo souvenir book ‘Vanishing Cultures of South Africa’ by Peter Magubane (Struik Publishers 1998), has many photos of Xhosa women smoking on pp 21, 22 and 23, but none are ‘three wife’ pipes.  The caption that goes with these photos includes: ‘Once they have passed menopause, married women are socially on a pair with men, they are entitled to smoke a long-stemmed pipe and to attend traditional rituals and beer-drinking occasions’.

West Indies seed items, Maidstone Museum – Moo28 waistband, Antigua, and M0043 Waistband West Indies

Leeds has one seed bag, and a multi-seed necklace from the Caribbean similar to these, but also some seed bags and armlets from Damaraland, Namibia, made of the same or similar looking brown seeds. I’ve pasted in a screen shot from our database to show you these below:

The Herero of Namibia were heavily missionized and I suspect that the use of these seeds was introduced by Christian missionaries in the late 19th century. I searched on-line for an exact identification of the seeds, and found this useful photo essay which tells us the seeds are wild tamarind, see the very good photo matcha fair way down the article. The photographs are  copyright W P Armstrong. Quote:

Wild tamarind (Leucaena leucocephala) produces thousands of elongate, flattened legume pods containing numerous seeds. The shiny brown seeds are commonly strung into elaborate necklaces in Caribbean and Hawaiian islands. They are often used as spacers between bright red seeds from coral trees (Erythrina) or other species.

Go to this site to see similar modern products for sale in Antigua.

But see also the very similar looking ipil seed novelty bags and jewellery from Tasmania illustrated at here, a brilliant blog article. As one of the Maidstone Museum items is clearly labelled Antigua it’s best to stick with this as the geographical provenance, and ditto for Caribbean re the other.

Antonia Lovelace
MEG Chair and Curator of World Cultures, Leeds Museum

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