The Eastern Cape of South Africa is home to several groupings of Xhosa-speaking people who were historically herders and subsistence farmers. Smoking, for recreation and for ritual, was common for these people, and skin and cloth bags were used for carrying personal tobacco and dagga supplies. This twentieth-century collection shows examples of small, elaborately decorated cloth tobacco pouches known as 'inxili' from across the Eastern Cape.
After four centuries of living in close proximity in the same type of environment, with similar external contacts, differences in material culture were not as marked by the twentieth century as they may well have been originally.
The exception was in clothing, where in the twentieth century there was still a distinct difference in style and colour between those living west and east of the Umzimvubu River.
Hemp originated in Asia and tobacco in America and both appear to have been in southern Africa for at least five centuries, but how they were introduced has not yet been established. Hemp was smoked through water, but its use later became illegal. Tobacco may also have been so smoked, but later on copies of European pipes were used.
The Iziko Social History Centre
The Iziko Social History Centre is situated in Church Square, Cape Town. It is housed in the magnificent former National Mutual Life Association of Australasia building, designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Masey in 1905.
The Iziko Anthropology Collection
The collection focuses mainly on African material culture, with special emphasis on southern Africa. With over 15 000 accessions, the collection illustrates indigenous African technologies, as well as ways of life and processes of cultural change among hunter-gatherers, pastoralists and farmers (and their descendants) in southern Africa during the colonial and post-colonial periods.
A small but representative sample of artefacts from similar types of societies elsewhere in Africa and the rest of the world is held for comparative purposes.
Basketry, ceramics, clothing and ornaments are especially well-represented, and there are objects of ethnographic and historical value associated with significant historical personalities. Material contributed by early South African anthropologists, notably Winifred Hoernlé, Dorothea Bleek, Isaac Schapera and Eileen Krige are important complements to their published work.
Other sections of the collection, such as clothing, toys and political material document selected aspects of contemporary urban society.
Due to the nature of these anthropological collections in Iziko, the names of the makers of these artefacts were often not recorded.
Created by Gerald Klinghardt and Sarah Schäfer.
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