Zulu Snuff Gourd - South Africa

Gourds were a favored item among southern African tribes, carried by both men and women and decorated with a wide variety of methods, whether incised, inlaid with detailed wire patterns, or sheathed in elaborate beadwork. Calabashes, such as the example seen here, have connotations of birth and gestation, and among the Sotho beaded gourds were worn around the neck by brides-to-be to indicate their betrothal.

Beadworking was itself a feminine practice, and was used here to wrap the calabash in a dazzling checkerboard pattern with blue accents. With its attached necklace of bright blue beads, this gourd would have been worn as just one element in an ensemble of other striking beadwork pieces.

Late 19th century
6” h (gourd) 13” l (necklace)
Gourd, glass beads, sinew
Provenance: Private UK collection
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