Image Gallery → Marital Status
Married Zulu Woman's Belt (isibamba or ixhama)
Married Zulu Woman's Belt (isibhamba or ixhama)
1940s - 1960s
Glass beads, cotton cloth, twine, grass
Museum purchase, funds provided by museum visitors
For many Zulu and other relocated peoples of southern Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries, beaded jewelry, garments, and other accessories became important markers of identity. Beadwork was a visual marker of social position, marital status, ethnic affiliation and location of the family’s homeland. Woven grass belts worn by Zulu women identify the wearer as a married woman with children. Such belts were adorned in earlier times with brass studs and then later with glass and plastic beads. This belt seems to be a cross between two types, the isibamba, a flexible belt with densely beaded strands, and an ixhama, a wider, tightly woven belt with sparser beadwork.