Phansi’s remarkable evolution from house to museum


The collections of Ukhamba (clay pot/beer pot). Photo Futhi Mbhele, CAJ News Africa

from FUTHI MBHELE in Durban
KwaZulu Natal Bureau
DURBAN, (CAJ News) – THE historic Phansi Museum in Durban is a cache of extensive traditional arts and crafts of African culture.

It has progressed phenomenally from a house that was owned by a certain deceased family that left their only daughter, who got married and sold the house to someone who turned it into a cultural museum.

The museum located in Glenwood is privately owned.

The Phansi houses an extensive collection of beadwork from various Southern African Tribes including the Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Shona, Himba and Herero.

The collection illustrates the significance and use of beads and to map out social identity, tradition and spirituality, past and present.

The bead collection is filled with the most glorious and inventive pieces.

Life size dolls showing ceremonial wear from different regions and cultures of South Africa are on display as are examples of beadwork dating back to the 19th century.

A tour guide, Nomonde Hadebe, revealed some of the most prominent items.

“We have (Nelson) Mandela’s shirt and funeral made out of the beads,” she said in an interview with Durban Today,

“We have Nyonga which is worn by the Ndebele woman during her wedding day,” Hadebe continued.

“The colour beads that identify where you are coming from, yellow and red are from Nongoma and Blue and Pink are from Umsinga, they can have other colours but this one will be more,” Hadebe said.

The fish coffin that was used in Venda back in the days. Photo Futhi Mbhele

The fish coffin that was used in Venda back in the days. Photo Futhi Mbhele, CAJ News Africa

Hadebe also mentioned a fish coffin which was used back in the day by people of Venda.

“Before people were not using graves for burial, they would put a deceased person in this fish coffin and push it into the lake, it will swim like a fish until it sinks. That is why some people believe that their ancestors are at the sea,” Hadebe explained.

She said they also have different kinds of smoking pipe and the artificial tree that used to symbolise that there is a traditional healer.

“In Xhosa the woman is allowed to smoke so that she can connect with the ancestors but in Zulu culture is totally different. It doesn’t seem well to see the woman smoking,” Hadebe concluded.

The entrance fee is R20 (US$1,09) for scholars, educators bringing a group R35, pensioners and university students R60, local tourists R70 and international guests and students R100.

– CAJ News


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