Thursday 15 June 2023


Africa's fascinating bead history predates the African Trade Bead era by over 75,000 years; the first known examples found in the Blombos Cave, on the South African coast (near Capetown) in 2004. Archaeologists uncovered a wealth of ancient artifacts, including the first known beads for decorative purpose – made from the shell of ostrich eggs. This knowledge spread across the continent, and archeological finds in Libya from around 12,000 years ago show the continued mastery of the craft as it evolved throughout the ages. The cultural significance of beadwork spread to ancient Kemet by 1500 BC. 

Ingqosha Collar, South Africa:

The Thembu, are a group in the Eastern Cape who speak Xhosa language but are a separate tribe. After circumcision, the men wore, and still wear, skirts, turbans and a wide bead collar. A waistcoat, long necklaces, throat bands, armbands, leggings and belts are part of his regalia. The dominant colors in the beadwork are white and navy blue, with some yellow and green beads symbolizing fertility and a new life, respectively

Thembu, also spelled Tembu , a Bantu-speaking people who inhabit the upper reaches of the Mzimvubu River in Eastern province, South Africa. The Thembu speak a dialect of Xhosa, a Bantu language of the Nguni group that is closely related to Zulu.

Usekh collar, Ancient Kemet:

Broad collar, Senebtisi The Usekh or Wesekh is a personal ornament, a type of broad collar or necklace, familiar to many because of its presence in images of the ancient Egyptian elite. Deities, women, and men were depicted wearing this jewelry. One example can be seen on the famous gold mask of Tutankhamun. The ancient word wsแบ– can mean "breadth" or "width" in the Ancient Egyptian language and so this adornment is often referred to as the broad collar. The usekh broad collar was wrapped around and supported by the neck and shoulders. It is typically adorned with closely placed rows of colored stone beads, or it is made entirely of metal. The collars were connected with clasps of gold.

A scene in the 4th Dynasty tomb of Wepemnofret at Giza connects the usekh collar with dwarfs and the deity Ptah. Bernd Scheel has argued that Ptah, who is sometimes depicted wearing the broad collar, protects the deceased through the collar and that dwarfs had access to that protective magic because of their work making these types of collars. In the 5th Dynasty tomb chapel of Akhethotep (originally located at the Saqqara burial ground, now in the Louvre), one scene distinguishes between two types of collars: the broad collar and the ลกnw or "encircling" collar.

The point is made, that there are similar collars in both cultures. But where did they originate, with the Kemetian north Africans or in South Africans or elsewhere in Africa?

Winnie Mandela, quoted in Sandra Klopper and Andrรฉ Proctor, “Through the Barrel of a Bead: The Personal and the Political in the Beadwork of the Eastern Cape,” in Ezakwantu: Beadwork from the Eastern Cape (Cape Town: South African National Gallery, 1994), p. 62.


1. Sandra Klopper, “From adornment to artefact to art: historical perspectives on south-east African beadwork,” in South East African Beadwork 1850–1910: From Adornment to Artefact to Art, ed. Michael Graham-Stewart, pp. 9–43 (Fernwood Press, 2000). 

2. Gary Van Wyk, “Illuminated Signs: Style and Meaning in the Beadwork of Xhosa- and Zulu-speaking Peoples,” African Arts, vol. 36, no. 3 (2003).​

3. Dr. Christa Clarke, "Beaded collar (ingqosha), Xhosa artist, South Africa," in Smarthistory, January 31, 2023, accessed June 9, 2023.

Via Born African

๐Ÿ“ธ: Nilotic tribes' collars (East Africa)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...