22 April 2015

Identifications for the Kent and Sussex Uniques project

Hastings Museum has three Mfengu bead ornaments with amazingly long panels, from South Africa. Len Pole and the curator, Catherine Harvey is keen to know of other museums with this particular type of ornament. These ones were probably donated to Hastings by G.P. Floureaux. All are similar to the one illustrated in Margret Carey’s Beads and Beadwork of East and South Africa, fig. 23 Shire Ethnography publications, 1986).

One of these extra long panelled ornaments featured in a group of Xhosa beadwork auctioned by Bonhams in November 2011.
A brief history of the Mfengu people is given on the Ekwazantu site
“The Mfengu are Nguni people, mostly of Bhele, Hlubi and Zizi origin, who fled during the early 19th century upheavals in Natal known as the Mfecane - Lifaqane or Difaqane. They arrived in what is today the Eastern Cape - where they were eventually suppressed by the local Xhosa chiefs. Their tribal name Ama-Fengu, Fingo or Mfengu,  means 'The Wanderers'  or 'Foreigners'. Mfengu speak what we call the Xhosa language, but do not consider themselves Xhosa. Their beaded tribal dress was adapted from the Xhosa, but remained with distinguishing factors. All over the region, a person's home area, ethnic sub group, age, marital status and sometimes the amount of children one had, could all be communicated through items of dress’.
On the web I also came across this little booklet featuring South African beadwork on stamps by 8th Definitive, produced in 2010.

Hastings also have three clay pipe bowls labelled as Asante from Ghana, acquired from the Misses Brandford Griffith. Len Pole says: see comments by Cole in Arts of Ghana, pp 55-59; also Pipe Book, p.184.  Sir William Brandford Griffith was governor of the Gold Coast from 1885-95, but he was unlikely to have visited Kumasi. A selection of Ghanaian pipe bowls can be found on the pages of the Amsterdam Pipe Museum devoted to African Pipes. You’ll find figured examples from the Lobi and Frafra as well as the Asante.  

The British Museum has a detailed description of two small gold and wood tobacco pipes held as part of its Asante Gold Regalia, in the online collection group catalogue authored by Fiona Sheales. 
Are there any other museums with Asante figured pipes out there? A collections search for tobacco pipes Ghana brings up another Asante pipe, a museum number Af, Cb.10, in the form of a letter, unfortunately with no photo yet.

Rachel Hemingway-Hurst from Uniques has just announced that this project's own website has gone live. Do take a look! 

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

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