Pair of Engraved Nguni Cattle Horns

South Africa
Zulu, 19th Century
Gift of Charles S. Ackerman

This pair of Nguni cattle horns is engraved with scenes of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. The Anglo-Zulu war was instigated by the British who wanted to unite the South African Republic founded by the Dutch Boers and the independent Kingdom of Zululand ruled by King Cetshwayo in order to control the diamond mines in region. In 1878 the British government in South Africa provoked Cetshwayo to fight a war they were confident he would lose. The British were astonished to find that the Zulus were powerful and disciplined fighters who won the first encounter of the war, the battle of Isandlwana. Though the British eventually won the war, it garnered incredible popular respect and intrigue for the Zulu. These horns, made for a British colonial audience are rich with imagery that can be read on a variety of levels and the artist plays with perspective, the contours of the horns, and integrating Zulu metaphors.