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ZULU BEADWORK- beadwork significance and meaning for different ages.

ZULU BEADWORK- beadwork significance and meaning for different ages.

Informal Interview with Gladys Mzimela, Woza Moya crafter and staff member who shared her knowledge about her Traditional Zulu culture and how it was applied in her family. Interview conducted by Zandile Masikane.

Young girls wear isigege/ tasselskirts – which is a skirt made of strands, which is made out of wool and beadwork.
No underwear is worn. The girls also wear a thin necklace around the neck.
The outer-body is uncovered

The boy child wears isinene, and a thin strand of beads around the neck. The Isinene is a leather covering which is made out of the skin goats because, when the baby boy is born the parents would slaughter a goat as a sign of welcoming that baby and recognising the ancestors, the parents would use that skin to make isinene.

It only covers the private parts. At the age of 7 he will be taught how to look after cows.

They will give him 2 sticks and he will be taught how to defend himself in the field where he will be Looking after cows, he would be defending against wild animals. There is also a long history of stick fighting which is a rite of manhood, one stick is for defending himself and the other is for hitting his opponent.

ITSHITSHI – The young Maiden
The itshitshi wears UMAMNDINDI, it is a skirt that is made out of pieces of fabric in very
Bright colours. The young maiden wears no underwear. The young maidens hairstyles is done in dreadlocks, and she will make those dreadlocks with green bar soap that is rubbed and twisted into the hair a dampt towel is helped to roll the hair into dreadlocks.

They wear only white beads because they are virgins. They are not dating anyone.

ITSHITSHI ELIQOMILE, Young maiden – Dating age
The Young maiden of dating age wears UMTSHEKO which is made out of fabric and bead tassels which are in white colours,
Because she still pure (virgin), she will carry iqhabanga (small Zulu stick) which will be covered in white. She wears a white towel on her head and the towel is covered with white beads, she will wear a white lace necklace.

INGODUSO-UMAKOTI -engaged woman
Lobola (bride price) has been paid but she is not married.
“Lobola is a kind of payment called a bridewealth. In this tradition, the family of the groom pays the family of the bride before a marriage takes place. In earlier times cattle were often used as payment.”

The engaged woman wears inkehli (red hat) and isidwaba (Cow leather skirt) because ilobolo ( bride price ) has been paid,
The in laws during lobolo bring a inkehli and isidwaba to dress their makoti. She will change the way she dresses because, she is a makoti now, she will wear a colourful necklace and the other one will cross around her chest as a scarf, this is the sign of respect. She will put umqwazo (headwrap) on with inkehli and will wear some colourful bangles

The older women wear the inkehli and the Isidwaba. The older women decorate the inkehli ( red hat) with lots of beadwork. Each area or family will have their own style of beadwork and patterns that have been handed down from the older generation. The Isidwaba (cow skin skirt)-is made out of cow skin. The family make the isidwaba by soaking the raw cow skin in water, they then take it out and rub it with parrafin and powder soap and wash it with a stone and rub the skin off.
They will put it in a plastic bag and dig a hole underneath a pile of cow compost because it creates warmth. Because of the heat generated the skirt becomes soft in one week.
The family then take out the heated skirt and it is washed with soap and water until it is soft, the skirt is then cut in layers and it is sewn together. After that they will make equal pleats to make up the pleated skirt. Thereafter a fire is made and grass is burnt that makes a special black ash that is mixed with pork oil. The black paste is then rubbed into the skirt and pleats. It is then tied with a strong cord and it is kept to dry out for two weeks, and after that you can wear it.

If you wear it, you first put a towel underneath and then the isidwaba so it will not scratch you. They become softer with age but they are quite stiff. Then an umqulu, a rounded or folded fabric that is stuffed like a sausage is worn. The reason behind this as it exaggerates the bottom area. The married woman also wears white beads like a scarf.

At a funeral- she must wear isdwaba ,umqulu and inkehli and must wear a big black scarf on her shoulders, the woman sit on the floor in mourning (bazothe) until the body is buried. This mourning encompasses all the married women in the household. They will all sit together and mourn. The unmarried women will prepare the food and take care of the mourners.

In traditional events , wedding and ceremonies -the married women wear scarves with colorful beads and will carry a small stick which is decorated with chiffon and beads. On the feet black or white flat takkies decorated with beads are worn. The women wear big belts, the base layer is a woven grass belt that then has beads on top, this grass belt is usually 10 – 20 cm wide and this is called isibhamba. The grass that us used is amaqhosha and the grass is plaited and woven into a belt.

They wear isithokothela around the neck which is a thicker chocker woven type necklace.
At the waist you use the umgunqulu, this is a rounded fabric tube and it is covered with decorated fabrics and beads. The next piece is a beaded apron, that sits on top of the skirt.
Anklets are worn these are called igqizo in Zulu and these are beaded in white beads and these are tied around the legs. There is a considerable amount of items that need to be worn and it can take 20 – 30 minutes to get dressed. Many of the items are old and some have also been passed down from generation to generation with each new Makhoti adding to the beadwork to suit her style.

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