Nov 06

Making Zulu shields – Thembinkosi Nelson Mthembu

by in Community, Culture & Heritage

Mr Thembinkosi Nelson Mthembu in Inanda (Newtown A) makes Zulu shields and other objects from animal skin. He was interviewed by Nkanyiso Dlamini on 16 October 2013.

Brief summary by Nkanyiso Dlamini. Find th full transcript on the Zulu page.

The first question is about one of the most widely recognizable objects or artifact that can be easily identified with the Zulu tradition which is a Shield (commonly known as ihawu in isiZulu language). Mr. Mthembu is asked to explain the process behind creating a shield which was originally made for protection for war men in historical Zulu nation. He firstly points out the fact that the creation of all Zulu artifacts has not changed much since back in the days, for example to create a shield he still needs fresh animal skin that is recently just been taken off a particular animal in this situation a cow’s skin, and this has been the tradition from his great grandparents back in times of King Shaka Zulu. The process involves, firstly thoroughly washing the cow’s skin with bar soap, and a lot of water, and then they straighten the skin and leave out in the sun to dry out for a few days

As the interview progresses Mr. Mthembu is asked whether the process of creating a big shield is the same for smaller version of shields, and he states that the process is the same for all sizes. The sizes where always different even in historical times just like today, the difference lies in that back in those days the larger harder ones where the ones used by men who were preparing for war. Now smaller ones created for children and sometimes depending on the situation women when doing their traditional isiZulu dances.

Other animals skin which are used in creating these Zulu attires are all other types of Dear such as Springboks, Kudu’s, and Gemsboks depending on whichever one gets hunted at the time.

More questions are asked to Mr. Mthembu about other objects that are native to the isiZulu culture such as objects that are sandals which are made from old car tyres and copping boards (isithebe). Knob kerrie which it (isagila) Zulu and the spears.

Thembinkosi Nelson Mthembu with Nkanyiso Dlamini

This post is also available in: Zulu

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