snuff box; necklace (neck ornament (personal adornment)); ishungu


This snuff box has been threaded onto a string of glass beads so that it can hang like a necklace. The container itself is made of wood and has a gourd lid and base. It was made in Kwazulu Natal, world_gallery:layered_info:encounters:africa:south_africa:south_africa|Republic of South Africa, in the late 19th century or early 20th century. The strings of beads that join both the lid and the base at the extremities are in pink, black and green, with alternating sections connecting the beads in black and white. The whole of the wooden container is covered in red, black and white glass beads that are arranged to create a geometrical pattern with red and black forms of rectangles visually twisted at an angle. According to Museum records, Miss E. J. Hipkins was responsible for donating the snuff container to the Horniman. Although the records do not indicate a date, there are some letters of correspondence relating to a different donation (of a Sioux Indian War weapon) written on 19th May 1928. The records further indicate that the donation may have come from Miss Hipkins' brother, Mr John A. Hipkins, who was also responsible for the Sioux War Weapon in the Collection.

Among the Zulu, snuff taking was widespread and the containers were considered items of prestige and an important part of signalling wealth, but they were also related in their association with relationship building. Upon meeting, acquaintances would often share a pipe or exchange some snuff, so it was important that one’s snuff container or tobacco pouch was as beautiful as it was functional. Used daily, tobacco is always shared. According to Costello 1990, for example, 'The Xhosa set great store by conversation and to pass a friend or stranger on the road without exchanging news is considered to be ill-mannered. At such meetings pipes are frequently brought out and tobacco shared.'

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