Non-WesternThe majority of our non-Western ethnographic items originate from Africa and South East Asia, particularly China. Most items are 20th century, although we do have some earlier exceptions. A highlight of our African collection is a striking assortment of Zulu beadwork on items such as necklaces, purses and gourd bottles. Beadwork is commonly used in Zulu costume and personal adornment. Since the 1830´s European traders have brought coloured glass beads to Africa, originally in exchange for ivory. Beadwork is crafted by Zulu women, but is worn by both sexes. Different designs communicate different meanings, and can show the age and social status of the wearer.
We also hold Zulu shields in our ethnographic collection. These were particularly important to Zulu warriors. The colour of the shield denoted the age set regiment or impi of the warrior. The greatest warriors would have white shields with one or two black spots and young warriors would have all black shields. Shields were believed to be resistant to bullets if dipped in water and rituals would be carried out to strengthen the shield and the warrior.
Other African items in our ethnographic collection include Yoruba robes and carved figurines, Botswanan "mokakatha" (fire making sticks), Masarwa (Kalahari Bushmen) hunting arrows with quivers and Masai swords.
Our Chinese collection contains a wide range of objects including vases, pipes, model boats, musical instruments, some delicately engraved mother of pearl tablets and eating equipment such as chopsticks, bowls and cups. From nearby Tibet, we hold prayer wheels such as the one depicted here. The metal drum, decorated with Tibetan Buddhist symbols, contains printed Mantras (prayers) and is rotated clockwise by hand with the weight on the chain helping it to spin. The rotation of the drum repeats the prayer, which earns merit and clockwise motion is believed to bring good fortune. Prayer wheels are used for the repetition of prayer whilst on pilgrimage, the greatest pilgrimage in Tibet being the clockwise walk around the holy mountain of Kailash.
We also hold a substantial collection of Malayan objects. This includes bags, bamboo combs, spears, snail shell ladles, an elephant driver’s goad, shell rattles, coconut raffia purses and ear/nose/neck adornments. Jewellery originating from the islands in South East Asia and the Pacific Ocean is often made using natural resources such as shells, seeds, plant fibres, bones and teeth. The meaning attributed to each item is based on material, and varies between island and region.
Objects from the Pacific region include a Maori Tokotoko (ceremonial carved walking stick) from New Zealand, boomerangs from Australia, a Samoan dolphin teeth necklace and tobacco pipes from Papua New Guinea.From North and South America, we hold delicately carved Haida cutlery from Queen Charlotte Islands, Hopi and Zuni Indian Kachina dolls and Mexican feather pictures.
Highlights from the Collection
This bottle-shaped bag in the shape of a durian fruit was used to give a complimentary present of new season rice.
|Wooden Figurine, West African/Congolese|
It has a fresh, unfinished appearance, as if it was commissioned at the time of acquisition.
|Moroccan Jambiya (Middle Eastern Dagger) 19th century|
The handle is made of ebony and bone and is inlaid with metal, mother of pearl and redstone. The sheath is made of brass and bears 2 rings for attaching to a belt.