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A Group of Seven Kwa Zulu Earplugs

One of a kind

A Group of Seven Kwa Zulu Earplugs

The designs and colour sequences relate much information about the wearer

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One of a kind

A Group of Seven Kwa Zulu Earplugs

South Africa

1950-1970

The earplugs are made from a South African soft wood, iziqhaza, which is overlaid to one or both sides with brightly coloured designs of vinyl cut from 'Marley' floor tiles; these finely worked mosaic overlays are glued and pinned in place. The earplugs were made by Zulu craftsmen and sold to migrant workers for their loved ones back home.

Sizes: up to 5.25 cm (2.25 in)

The wearing of these highly decorative earplugs grew from the smaller polished bone, wood or ivory plugs used in the 19th century following the ear piercing ceremony which took place at puberty and marked the transition from childhood to adulthood. These large, sophisticated designs became popular in the middle of the 20th century when this brightly coloured material became available to the Zulu craftsmen working in Johannesburg and the Msinga district and it was incorporated into the established beadwork tradition using the Msinga colour sequence known as isishunka against a white background. The use of specific colours in certain sequences indicated stages of life such as virginity, maturity and children and motifs were drawn from many sources: the traditional hourglass appears on beadwork and other crafts and has been interpreted as a male/female symbol; the crescent of the old or new moon is found on wood carving and the triangle and arrows from modern road signs; the 'rising sun' motif is reported to have derived from the trademark of Sunbeam Polish.

These earplugs are known as amashaza.

The tradition of wearing earplugs changed during the early 20th Century from men to women as the ear piercing ceremony became less common and the use of these new materials resulted in the adaptation of the traditional craft which continued to evolve throughout the century. In the 60's and 70's a thicker perspex became popular which necessitated simplified bolder areas of colour; these were highly polished and often incorporated brass or chrome studs; however, they still followed the beadwork fashions and used the simpler umzansi designs. This style is known by the general term for earplugs - iziqhaza. During the 80's, when piercing had fallen out of fashion and beadwork was no longer widely practised, earplugs were replaced with clip-on painted wooden discs with painted geometric designs.

Museums:
The Standard Bank Collection of African Art, University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries

Bibliography:
Zulu Treasures pub. KwaZulu Cultural Museum and the Local History Museums 1996 Frank Jolles
Zulu tribal art Alex Zaloumis pub. AmaZulu Cape Town South Africa

1173

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A Group of Seven Kwa Zulu Earplugs

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Arcarta is pleased to offer complimentary shipping on this item to UK addresses. International delivery is available.

This item may be returned within two days of receipt. View returns policy.

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Personal Service

Our team is always at hand to assist you.
Phone: 0161 850 7571
enquiries@arcarta.com

Complimentary Next Day Shipping

For purchases made before 12pm GMT to UK addresses, next-day delivery is available.

Returns Accepted

Having second thoughts? We accept returns on all orders.
Our Returns Policy