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Mandela: African necklace as act of defiance

16 December 2013 by Zachary

Beaded necklace

Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela, freedom fighter and former President of South Africa, was returned to his ancestral home of Qunu yesterday for a burial ceremony that was broadcast all over the world.

When Nelson Mandela appeared for sentencing in the South African Supreme Court on charges of treason in 1962, he wore a traditional Xhosa beaded costume as an expression of contempt and resistance against the illegitimate proceedings against him. This was captured in a famous picture by Eli Weinberg.

But Mandela chose not to wear any beadwork after his release from prison in 1990 in order to stress the need to overcome ethnic divisions in a post-apartheid South Africa.

As curator of African collections at World Museum, this got me thinking about the jewellery that we have in our collections. Take a look this beaded necklet – it’s from South Africa and was made in the early 20th century.

Find out more about the African collections on our website.

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