Beadwork identity as brand equity: an analysis of the Nyuswa beadwork convention as the basis for craft economies in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, with specific emphasis on the beadwork of Amanyuswa

Gatfield, Rowan (2014) Beadwork identity as brand equity: an analysis of the Nyuswa beadwork convention as the basis for craft economies in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, with specific emphasis on the beadwork of Amanyuswa. PhD thesis, University of KwaZulu- Natal.

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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


The Zulu identity appears to have enjoyed precedence over other polity identities in KwaZulu-Natal for what is largely viewed as time immemorial. Yet, a cursory glance at emergent literature on the Zulu and what has come to be called ‘Zuluness’,, the reification of this identity, reveals that in every instance, where the term ‘Zulu’ is perpetuated, as if an overarching singular socio-political entity, ethical questions emerge . In economic terms these questions become inflamed, particularly within Tourism related industries, where products and services are being sold as authentically ‘Zulu’, thereby negating other potential for varied brand offerings. Much of the body of literature on beadwork appears to be similarly ‘framed’, by this seemingly unopposed view of the Zulu. When juxtaposed against the dire poverty within the province, compounded through HIV/AIDS, and retail sites saturated with ‘Zulu’ product, such as beadwork, the value of brand diversification emerges. Based on this premise, this study examines how polity identity within the Zulu might translate into the alleviation of poverty through micro-economic approaches, by capitalising on visual anthropologies in the form of beadwork identity. To this end, this thesis examines if those, within one such polity, the Nyuswa at KwaNyuswa, in the region known as the ‘Valley of a Thousand Hills’, in KwaZulu-Natal, continue to maintain the use of this identity and elect to define that identity through a beadwork convention. Further, if such forms of denotation can serve as a basis for a departure from the existing position on beadwork and its relationship to the Zulu brand.

This study, therefore examines the historical, political, cultural and socio-economic factors which have and continue to impact on the survival of the Nyuswa identity, from numerous theoretical perspectives. Methodologically this study draws on the training and experience of the researcher, as a visual communication design practitioner and educator, employing a reflexive ethnographic research framework through which to interpretivistically deepen understanding on beadwork conventions of the Nyuswa, in relation to other beadwork conventions within the Zulu. Drawing on qualitative data, gained through unstructured interviews and participant observation, by attending numerous traditional events, and in design- based engagements with three craft collectives - Sigaba Ngezandla, Simunye and Zamimpilo, in KwaNyuswa, and with Durban Beachfront Craft retailers and Rickshaw Pullers it discusses various prototype handbags, and Rickshaw cart and outfit designs, developed to test the value of beadwork denotation in serving micro-enterprise and polity-based brands.

The findings of this study point to the value of polity-based branding and product development, but also represent the value of visual ethnographic analysis towards understanding the material culture of those from the Nyuswa, the extended Qadi, and the larger Ngcobo polity, many of whom elect to denotatively represent themselves through isijolovane , the beadwork convention said to look like “colorful ‘peas’ floating in a black ‘soup’ “. Examples of which were found across KZN province. These findings not only point to a new way in which oral records might be validated, through beadwork, but also serve to challenge the commonly heralded view, particularly in the Tourism sector, that the Zulu are a singular identity represented by a single beadwork convention known as isimodeni or the view, held by many scholars, that Zulu beadwork is simply comprised of a limited number styles, or as merely denoting large regions, in the KZN province. Instead the outcomes of this study represent a step towards a reconstituted perspective of beadwork as being a denotative tool for communicating polity allegiance and for representing the dispora of identities, within the Zulu, displaced through time and circumstance across South East Africa. These findings are underpinned through the analysis of secondary data, accessed in museums; in beadwork archives, across KwaZulu-Natal; online; and in relevant texts.

Keywords:Nyuswa Beadwork, Zulu Beadwork, Poverty Alleviation, Beadwork Denotation, KwaZulu-Natal Tourism
Subjects:L Social studies > L600 Anthropology
W Creative Arts and Design > W210 Graphic Design
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Design)
ID Code:19813
Deposited On:15 Dec 2015 20:07

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