The question is often asked 'what is Zulu art?'. Zulu art was for many
years overlooked as the Zulu people did not make art in the form of
sculptures and paintings. Rather, the art was seen in the embellishment of utensils used in the home such as carved wooden meatplatters, milkpails, spoons, walking sticks and headrests.
Inherant in Zulu art is a strong sense of geometric design. The patterns are usually related to some notion of masculinity, femininity, fertility or cattle. For example, the nodules - called amasumpta- seen on beer pots, meatplatters, milkpails and headrests are suggestive of the cows udders.
As with many African cultures, clothing is of paramount importance to the collector as it embodies the essence of the culture. The Zulu people are renowned for their beautiful beadwork which sometimes carries symbolic messages of love, peace or fertility in the use of geometric patterns. Traditionally, Venetian glass beads were used, but today the use of plastic beads is more common. Anklets, bracelets, armbands, necklaces, cross-bands, waistbands, beaded capes and headrings are all still commonly used to adorn the leather undergarments.
Earplugs, usually worn by men, are also of importance to the collector and are becoming very rare.
Zulu weapons are of great interest to both collectors of African artifacts and collectors of militaria. The Zulus were great warriors, and under the leadership of Shaka they were a formidable force. Shaka introduced the stabbing spear - a short shafted, long bladed spear which was more effective that its counterpart - the throwing spear. The spear was used in conjunction with a shield or assagai which was made of cowhide. Axes were also commonly used but are a rare find these days.