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  • Beaded Doll (Ham Pilu)
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Beaded Panel

Beaded Panel Necklace with Female Figure (opa umvoti)

Zulu People
South Africa
Beaded Panel Necklace with Female Figure (isibebe)
20th Century
Museum Purchase with Harn General Program Endowment Funds
2007.27.22

This beaded panel, or isibebe, features an abstract rendering of a female figure flanked by chevrons. The sequence of colors, black, green, blue and white may be interpreted as a strong statement of love for a fiancée. White is recognized as a sign of purity of feeling, the blue as the color of the Indian ocean implies the distance one would go for love, and pink is associated with poverty, but also the color of the eland, a sacred and beautiful animal, among many other metaphoric images, and its meaning here is inconclusive. The combination of blue and green chevrons is a conventional motif, cwe, that accentuates the emotional import of the other symbols. The circles of beads around the base of the cord, called sliding knots or opa-umvoti, are compared to clasped hands, another way of accentuating the meaning expressed in the panel.

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