A painting titled, Xhosa Woman is by the South African artist and author Dr Barbara Eleanor Harcourt Tyrrell (1912-2015). The painting depicts an unmarried Xhosa woman smoking, her marital status is confirmed by her not wearing a white apron. She is however, defying custom by smoking a pipe considered traditionally only a privilege reserved for married women. The painting, one of a series of 59 in the collection done by Tyrrell for her book titled, African Heritage in 1983.Tyrrell was a lifelong scholar in studying African rituals and clothing of the traditional people of South Africa and she authored several books on the subject. The University of Pretoria purchased this collection from the artist in 1988. Tyrrell is known internationally for her detailed costume studies of the traditional dress of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa. Short biography: Barbara Eleanor Harcourt Tyrrell was born on 15 March 1912 in Durban, South Africa. Her father, died while she was a small child. He had occupied the post of assistant magistrate and later interpreter in the Department of Native Affairs and had been stationed in various Natal towns, his final post was in Eshowe in Zululand. Tyrrell's grandfather was Frederick Fynney, interpreter and companion to the Zulu King Cetshwayo during the latter's visit to Queen Victoria in 1882. Tyrrell trained as an artist at the former University of Natal during the 1930's, when the Fine Arts department was still linked with that of the former Technical College. Tyrrell was 103 years old when she passed away in 2015.


  • Title: Xhosa Woman
  • Creator: Barbara Tyrrell
  • Date Created: 1983
  • Location Created: South Africa
  • Physical Dimensions: 670mm x 540mm
  • Type: Painting
  • Original Source: University of Pretoria Museums
  • Rights: Copyright University of Pretoria
  • Medium: Tempera on Burlap

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