Celebrating the Zulu Women of South Africa

Learn about Zulu women's traditions and cultural attire through beautiful illustrations which pay homage to them

Zulu Bride (1996) by Carol Beckwith & Angela FisherAfrican Ceremonies

Honoring Zulu women through art

This exhibit is a celebration of the women of KwaZulu Natal through the work of Barbara Tyrell. Through sensitive depictions of women from different ethnic groups, Tyrell pays homage not only to women but the the traditions and cultures from which they hail.

Barbara Tyrrell was a lifelong scholar focused of African rituals and the clothing of the traditional people of South Africa and is known internationally for her detailed illustration of the traditional dress of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa.

Bhaca (1983) by Barbara TyrrellOriginal Source: University of Pretoria Museums

The Bhaca Women of KwaZulu Natal

One of Tyrrell favourite subject matters was the Zulu region. In this painting, she illustrates a matron attending to a young wife's hair, a head cloth of respect is tied in place afterwards. [to add more context about matron caring for wives/head tie/respect]

Zulu Woman (1983) by Barbara TyrrellOriginal Source: University of Pretoria Museums

Isiqolo, Traditional Zulu Hat

Serves as a public symbol of marital status, a sign of respect to the husband and his family. Tyrrell comments on the changes in headgear in 'modern' KwaZulu in the 1980s. This work depicts a Zulu matron wearing a headrest developed for convenience of taxi and bus travel.

Ngwane Bride (1983) by Barbara TyrrellOriginal Source: University of Pretoria Museums

Newlywed Woman

This painting illustrates a young newlywed woman from the Ngwane people in the KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg. She's sitting at a party wearing an array of colored clothes and beads. Her marital status is shown by the pink apron and the walking stick in front of her knees. 

Zulu Married Woman (1983) by Barbara TyrrellOriginal Source: University of Pretoria Museums

Zulu Married Woman

In Zulu, women have different attire for different stages of their lives. This painting illustrates a married Zulu woman, as she would have traditionally been dressed in the 1950s. The large red beads on her forehead would indicate that she has beared children.

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