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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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Southern African Tobacco Bags

Poches de Tabac Africaines - Afrikanischer Tabakbeutel








Tobacco Bags - Eastern Cape


Ingxowa / Ikhubalo





                            Red Blanket Valley - Pg 140                                                   Nelson Mandela

                       Tobacco bag vendor - Circa 1950


The Fengu or Mfengu, Thembu and Xhosa all used tobacco bags. Over time, they developed into body adornment, as did the use of a pipe itself. A person was socially out of step if not in possession of either of these decorative items.


Woman's Tobacco Bags


Both men and woman's tobacco bags were made from white cotton baize. In earlier times, some were made from hide. Bags were decorated with cotton braid and / or beadwork. In the case of the example above, leather beaded goat hide streamers with colorful rings decorated either side. Woman  carried a supply of home-grown tobacco leaves and a pipe in the bag. She might also include a small mirror, a tin of snuff, a tinderbox for lighting, matches and a handkerchief tied in a knot containing her shopping money.




Ivy Albums - Lynn Accutt - Circa 1900 - Woman lighting pipe from flint stored in a tinderbox.

Heavily beaded tobacco bags of Tembu origin follow.


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Tassels on woman's tobacco bag were shorter then those found on men's. They were made from leather, cord, or cotton wool and were more often then not beaded.


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 Tobacco bags might be hung from a strap over the shoulder to rest on the wearer’s hip, or worn on the chest.



Men's Tobacco Bags





                             Joan Broster - Red Blanket Valley - Page 18                       Barbara Tyrrell - Thembu at Qwathi


Though women wore traditional dress more often than men, when worn, men's attire outshined that of the women. Men added a number of tobacco bags to compliment their outlandish attire. Leather or cotton streamers were treble the length "or more", when compared to those woman wore. 


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These male Thembu tobacco bags date to the 1950's - 1960's and were called "ikhubalo". The example on the left was collected in the Hershel District, while the very large center example and the one to the right were collected in Quebe, an area in and around Joan Broster's RED BLANKET VALLEY.




Circa 1960's - 1970's Postcard


Men wore the tobacco bag like a garment. They confirmed status and wealth.




In our view, this is the most exceptional example of a Thembu 20th century male tobacco bag available anywhere. It has three sealed, beaded, leather pouches on each side of it's leather streamers - contents unknown.



Photographed at Mbiza between 1904 and 1905 at Uncle Van Vasco da Gama van Blommenstein Trading Store.









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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 in his book The Magic World of the Xhosa; The man’s bag is quite different and more masculine. It is made from a wild domestic animal’s 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 Kidd’s 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 tobacco bag was made from a reversed goat hide and worn by males.





These large tobacco bags were worn by men to carry home grown leaf tobacco and other items, but their main intent 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






This example is the most highly decorated specimen known to us. The bag  is overloaded with beadwork, bells, coins and thimbles, all adding sound and visual impact. The article was made to send a powerful statement to onlookers.




The tail of the backpack heavily beaded on both sides.













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Southern African Tribal Art - African Art 


Central and Southern African Tribal Art


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