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Royal Commonwealth Society : Zulu matron, Melmoth area, Zululand

Tyrrell, Barbara (1912-2015)

Royal Commonwealth Society

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Barbara Eleanor Harcourt Tyrrell was born in 1912 in Durban and grew up in Zululand. Her father was an assistant magistrate and later interpreter in the Department of Native Affairs. Tyrrell trained as an artist at the University of Natal during the 1930s and worked for a time in London on fashion drawing. She returned to South Africa and settled in Richmond. Her interest in the rich and diverse dress and adornments worn by the peoples of southern Africa inspired her to document them at a time of increasing modernisation and westernisation. Tyrrell embarked upon her first field trip in 1934, and by the 1960s had recorded the costume and customs of virtually all of southern Africa's peoples. Today, a large body of Tyrrell's work forms part of the Campbell Collections at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The watercolour is one of sixty original watercolours by Barbara Tyrrell which were presented to the Royal Empire Society by Dr Killie Campbell and Mrs Gladys Hepburn in 1950. The watercolours each measure 280 x 380 mm and are accompanied by detailed captions by the artist, which we have faithfully reproduced.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> The isiqolo or built up headdress is the symbol of marriage among the Zulu people. It is commenced during the engagement period and increased in length after marriage. Isiqolo shapes vary from one district to another, and a Zulu woman’s home area may be judged by the shape of her coiffure, and the patterns of her beadwork. The headdress is composed of hair, teased out, reinforced with wool or grass and stitched, the cord ends being bound together at the back. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> The hair is also red-ochred and perfumed with powdered roots or sandal wood. Large earrings are a popular Zulu ornament, the lobes being pierced during childhood to fulfil a custom, when the child is said to have reached the stage when his or her “ears are opened”. The lobes are then gradually enlarged. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>See Janus record <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>here</a></p>

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