Cape Nguni or Thembu Pipe with Hand Motif - South Africa

Abundant artistic imagination was employed in the creation of South African tobacco paraphernalia, a tradition perfectly embodied in this beautiful pipe, which is conceived as an extended right arm supporting a decorative vessel. Above the finely and naturalistically modeled hand, three tiered cartouches of delicately and exactingly carved sawtooth motifs flank the bowl. A dark and luxurious patina graces this lovely pipe, highlighting the silvery inlay to magnificent effect.

A pipe’s characteristics were dictated by its owner. Size, shape and decoration varied according to the carrier’s age, sex and profession. Women’s pipes always had longer stems than men’s, as well as taller, narrower bowls with a smaller capacity. Pipes with white beads might be used by female diviners, while those with very long stems and colored beads could be used by elderly people of both sexes. With its broad, stout bowl and shorter stem, this pipe almost certainly belonged to a man.

Late 19th century
5 1/8” l 2 1/8” h
Wood, metal
Provenance: Seward Kennedy, London; Kevin Conru, Brussels
Published in The Art of Southeast Africa, Kevin Conru, plate 31a
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