Coiled brass and steel wire
Gallery notes: Unlike iron, copper, which is the main component of brass, was not available to the Zulu people locally in any great quantity. Instead it was acquired through European traders at Delagoa Bay (Mozambique) and traded to the Zulu by Thonga people living in the bay’s vicinity. Purchased in the form of unworked blocks, the Zulu used brass to create neck, leg and arm rings, beads and studs.
Rings of twisted or plaited brass wire (ubusenga) such as this example were made for the wrist, the upper arm and calf of the leg. The brass wire was wrapped around a core of plant fibre or animal hair to keep the ring flexible. Brass and copper beads were sometimes added as decoration. In this case, three double rings have been joined together with brass bands and a clasp, possibly for European use. The rings became popular during the reign of the Zulu leader Cetshwayo (r.1872-1879). Today they are still worn but are more frequently made of lightweight aluminium.