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Gallery Ezakwantu

African Art  - Art Africain - Tribal Art -  菲洲艺术 - Afrikanische Kunst


Central and Southern African Tribal Art

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African Costume - African Tribal Dress

Habits Traditionnels Africains - VÍtements Traditionnels Africains

Afrikanische Traditionelle Bekleidung - Africa Adorned








Ntwane Back Apron or Skirt


Called an Ntepa





This is a heavily beaded - rarely seen - fine quality example of an Ntwane woman's leather beaded back skirt of the Ntwane. The chevron pattern along the upper edge is typical of early collected North Sotho - Bechwana aprons. Fine detail highlights the swallowtail ends.



 © Peter Magubane  - Married Ntwane women wearing beaded back skirts at a celebration.





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Mfengu Costume




Fingo Beaded Dress




Ezakwantu - Things from the House of the People - Pg. 4



The Mfengu are Nguni people, mostly of Bhele, Hlubi and Zizi origin, who fled their land 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 suppressed by local Xhosa and Thembu chiefs - forced to work as domestic slaves. Their tribal name Ama-Fengu, Fingo or Mfengu,  means 'The Wanderers'  or 'Foreigners'. Mfengu speak Xhosa, but do not consider themselves Xhosa. Their beaded tribal dress was adapted from the Xhosa, but it retained distinguishing factors. Unlike their Gcaleka / Xhosa masters, their carved staffs were straight. Throughout the region, a person's home area, ethnic sub group, age, marital status and sometimes the amount of children, was communicated through items of dress.




Mlanjeni's War - Eighth Frontier War - Circa 1851


In 1835 the Mfengu made representations to the Cape Colony government for land. Sir Benjamin d'Urban permitted them to settle on the banks of the Great Fish River - 'at Xhosa expense'. This created a buffer zone for the British to ward off further Xhosa invasions of the Cape Colony. The Mfengu fought for the British in the Frontier Wars or  'Kaffer Wars' of 1835, 1846 and again between 1851 and  1853.



Mfengu Skirt - Fingo Woman's Skirt


Umbhaco - Imibhaco





Mfengu women adopted Xhosa styled dress, who themselves had adopted attire from Victorian fashion. Their dresses or skirts were called Umbhaco or Imibhaco. The cotton sheeting fabric itself is called ibayi.





Barbara Tyrrell - Mfengu (Fingo) Woman - Man - Circa 1948


Blankets were colored with red ochre, yielding a rich reddish brown fabric that was then cut and sewn into three sections to form the skirt. They were embroidered, braded and beaded. When worn with other garments and accessories, a vivid display of adornment was shown.




Our example uses many thousands of beads in decoration.



 Click any image to enlarge.


Beaded skirts were worn together with shoulder wraps or beaded blankets.



Mfengu Woman's Blanket - Fingo Blanket


Amabhayi - Ibhayi





An Mfengu blanket was called Amabhayi or Ibhayi. The blanket depicted above is outstanding. It includes ornately decorated mother-of-pearl buttons - glass beads and embroidery. The  ibhayi was worn around the shoulders as a body wrap, which also covered children. When the maker of this blanket wore it, she sent a clear message to others of wealth and status.



 Click either image to enlarge.


The shell buttons are Mother of Pearl (MOP), which often date to 1900. Most buttons were made from the great green turban snail Turbo Marmoratus - of the Turbinidae family. Over one thousand buttons were used to decorate this blanket, as well as thousands of glass beads.



Mfengu Woman's Turban - Fingo Turban


Iqhiya - Ibhayi





This turban is called an Iqhiya or Ibhayi and is an Mfengu headdresses. They were worn to complement a woman's outfit. Sometimes a colourful Santulo is attached, to add volume to the headdress. (handkerchief) Barbara Tyrrell's watercolour (below right) shows an Mfengu nursing mother wearing a turban.





                              Mfengu Headdress                                              Barbara Tyrrell - Mfengu (Fingo) Woman



 Click images to enlarge.


Countless hours were spent embroidering three sides of the dark Melton cloth.






Mfengu - Xhosa Beaded Headband


'amadiliza entloko'





Large headbands were worn by young men of the Fingo and Xhosa groups living around East London.




The Magic World of the Xhosa - Aubrey Elliott - Pg 39


Young men's headbands were called amadiliza entloko.



Click either thumb to enlarge image.



Mfengu Beaded Front Apron


Fingo Apron - Inkciyo





The apron above called inkciyo, was collected amongst the Mfengu people. It is decorated with glass beads in traditional Fingo color, brass rings - washers and leather straps. Inkciyo translates as underpants.





Field Images of Thembu and Xhosa related Aprons - First half 20th Century



Mfengu Mans Tobacco Bag


Ingxowa Bokwe





The Magic World of the Xhosa - Page 34 - Aubrey Elliot


Large tobacco bags worn by males are called Ingxowa Bokwe. Aubrey Elliot wrote: The manís bag is quite different and more masculine. It is made from a wild domestic animalís skin. The particular skin used, to some extent, owes its popularity to the fashion in a clan in the same way as does the pattern by which it is made up. In the Ncera area, near Kiddís beach where I lived as a child, the popular bag was a tubular one made of monkey skin. In other areas goat skins are used for this purpose.





Our male tobacco bag was made from a reversed goat hide .



Large tobacco bags were worn by men to carry home tobacco leaf and other items, but in reality, their main function was to add to the wearers adornment and prestige.  





                        Annals of the South African Museum Volume 58  March 1988 Part 4              Ezakwantu - Beadwork from the Eastern Cape

                                                 The Material Culture of the Cape Nguni                                                                 Fig 58 - Page 105

                                 Part 4 Personal & General by E.M.Shaw & N.J.Warmelo





The example on offer is the most highly decorated specimen known to us. It is heavily beaded with bells, coins and thimbles, all adding sound and 'visual'. The article was made to send a powerful message or statement to onlookers.




The tail of the backpack is heavily beaded on both sides.




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Rare Mfengu (Fingo) Knee Piece



This knee decoration was worn my young men of the Mfengu tribe, in the vicinity of East London. The straps are made of goat hide. The attachment section includes brass washers called izingqwemesha.



These are no longer field collected and we have not seen one on the market in over 20 years.




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Thembu Leather Purses


Xhosa - Mfengu Purses


Photograph - Alice Mertens - Circa 1960


Thembu women wore highly decorated leather purses, that hung on the hip - adding a highlight to their leather dress.




Thembu Purse Number 267


Pouches like this were worn as status objects and used to protect paper money. 



Thembu Purse Number 268


The openings were so small that sometimes a knife or razor edge had to be used to extract a note. This tight construction was intended to help prevent theft of bank notes.



Thembu Purse Number 269


The surface, as well as multiple leather strips, were decorated with hand made brass rings, buttons and tacks.



Thembu Purse Number 270


Men who worked in the mines or cities gave these to their wives as gifts on their return. They were highly prized and used to adorn.



Thembu Purse Number 7339


The Thembu - Xhosa and Mfengu all owned related leather purses. Our examples are Thembu. Depending on who you ask - singular or plural - they were called Isipaji - Izipaji - Imphuthamphutha and Isipaji-saseMaiMai



Thembu Purse Number  7492


The example above has been displayed on an iron stand, which is included.




Thembu Purse Number 7492





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Ba Tonka Skirts


Zambia - Zimbabwe



Ba Tonga Man and Woman - 1950


The Kariba dam was built between northern and southern Rhodesia and completed in 1960. At the time, it was the largest man made body of water ever built. The Ba Tonka had lived on both sides of the river Zambezi. The dam forced their relocation from the river and valleys they had hunted and fished for centuries.




Example 'A'


Traditional back skirts of the Ba Tonka women are no longer found in the field.




Woman's back skirt - circa 1980



Example 'B'



Ba Tonka girls wearing beaded skirts at a festive occasion, circa - first half 20th century.





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Sukuma Beaded Skirt Ė Tanzania


Circa mid 1900's





These rare leather skirts were worn by young girls and comprise many hundreds of thin leather strips.








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Ndebele Beadwork


Ndebele Wedding Veil - Nyoga




Ndebele Women -  1920's - Ivy's Album Collection


The Ndebele bride wore a long train with her bridal costume called an Nyoga, which translates to 'snake'. The Nyoga was attached to the brides shoulders and trailed down to the ground, mimicking a European wedding vale, which made for a snake-like motion when danced. (men - attention please!) ☺




This Nyoga was handed down by  mother to daughter as a heirloom - no less then three times. It is exceptionally long at 187 centimeters. It's lenght grew as sections were inserted before weddings. The bead colors in the 'TH' section were in fashion during the 1950's. The use of the letters indicates the owner lived near Heidelberg, South Africa. (Vehicle number plates.) The darker green-purple-blue and black beaded section near the bottom was the style of the 1970's. (below right) The open rectangular sections below that and the predominantly white beadwork 'overall' represents the original vale - dating  to the 1920's - a time when Ndebele beadwork initially flourished.


Click either image to enlarge.




The white flared triangular finial was a popular motive during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It can be found in early collected Khoi / San and Tswana / Bechwana beadwork.






Ndebele Apron - Pepetu





A Pepetu is a small beaded apron worn by a young Ndebele maiden after completing a period of seclusion. The rite is a part of female initiation.




Ivy's Album Collection


The image displays Ndebele fashion - circa 1940.




Rear Surface


Pepetu's traditionally were made by a girl's mother and worn with a thimba, or back skirt.  Predominately white aprons are older, some dating to the 1920's.






Royal Kuba Costume





Click the image above to view royal Kuba body armor.






Salampasu Warrior Regalia





Click the image above to view Salampasu regalia on offer.






Luchazi Chindoka Costume


The Flying Drunk Calabash of Honey Beer





Click the image above to view our 'flying drunk' Chindoka costume of the Luchazi. 









Galerie Ezakwantu

Southern African Tribal Art - African Art 


Central and Southern African Tribal Art


Art Africain      頂级菲洲艺术品中心     Afrikanische Kunst     AuŖereuropšische Kunst




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African Adornment - African Axes - African Basketry - African Beadwork - African Beer Cups - African Beer Pots - Colonial Figures - African Containers - Contemporary African Art - African Costume - African Currency - African Dolls - African Figures - African Hair Combs - African Headdresses - African Wigs - African Headrests - African Neck Rests - African Masks - Masques Africains - African Meat Platters - African Milk Pails - Miscellaneous Objects African Musical Instruments - African Jewelry - African Jewellery - African Pipes - African Shields - African Snuff  Spoons - African Snuff Bottles - African Spoons - African Ladles - African Staffs - African Status Objects - African Stools - African Thrones - African Tobacco Bags - Central African Weapons - Southern African Weapons - North African Weapons - Other Weapons - Zulu Imbenge Pot Covers






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