Zulu Nursing Necklace - South Africa

This beautiful Zulu necklace, with its subtly dramatic palette of white, black and brown, would have been worn by a nursing mother. Narrow bundles of poisonous tamboti (Spirostachys africana) wood, a material prized for its pleasing aroma and used in similar nursing necklaces by the Mfengu of the Eastern Cape, are interposed between sections of beads. Some South African peoples believed sexual relations between a wife and husband during this early period of motherhood would negatively affect the child, and nursing necklaces symbolized the mother’s status, communicating it clearly to others in the community. In eras when polygamy was common, a husband would sleep with a second or third wife during this time.


Late 19th century
18” l
Glass beads, wood, fiber, brass button
Provenance: Adam Prout, U.K.
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