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Royal Commonwealth Society : Swazi dandy, Gollel area, Swaziland

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 Swazi youth takes a keen interest in his hair and carries a mirror as frequently as do the womenfolk. His mirror may be decorated with beadwork by his womenfolk, or set in a wooden frame which he darkens with burning and carves into patterns. The lightening of his hair is a serious occupation, almost a ritual. A waterfall or rapids is essential to the process and helps to straighten and sort out the kinky hair. Yellow soap is heavily lathered on after the waterfall treatment and remains in a smooth soap cap for 3 or 4 weeks. The action of sun on yellow soap produces the blonds and straightens the kinks. Then comes another visit to the waterfall where soap is removed and the hair carefully dried out. Beaded pins and earrings are added for special occasions. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>See Janus record <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>here</a></p>

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