Descendants of the Nguni peoples of southeast Africa, the Zulu trace their history back to the 14th and 15th centuries when they migrated southward and settled into modern day South Africa. During the 1800's under Chief Shaka, the Zulu established themselves as a very powerful people and were feared throughout southern Africa. Today most of the Zulu population lives in a 10,000 square mile Zululand reserve along the Indian Ocean. Once self sufficient they must now rely on employment outside of their reserve in nearby towns to survive. Zulu tribal artistry has been somewhat been over shadowed by their unprecedented proclivity in the creation of weaponry, shields, clubs and spears. Yet like most African tribes their artistic endeavors are not limited to such items of war. On a more gentile side the Zulu are creators of museum quality basketry and as more of their culture is revealed beautiful dolls are surfacing!
Dolls have been associated with man since ancient times and have been found in archaeological sites throughout the world. In some cultures they were used as toys however their primary use has always been connected to the rituals of burial, fertility, initiation and marriage. In Africa dolls are made in various shapes, in a wide variety of materials for specific reasons.
The Zulu women of South Africa started with on solid piece of solid native wood. It was then shaped into the image of a woman to their liking. Some narrow waisted, others short and shapely others yet tall and slender. Hundreds of colorful teeny tiny beads were then strung and wrapped around the figures, interspersed by form fitting bands of heavy cotton twine, adorning them with caps and tops and leggings. Cowry shells were placed upon the ears forming earrings, fancy dress hems, waist bands, necklaces and expressive hairdos. Their usage was only limited by the imaginations of the Zulu women. Each beautiful hand crafted doll has been placed on an attractive wooden base making for a wonderful display!