In 1904, the Museum received a donation of a beer gourd. The donor was probably the amakholwa writer and intellectual Magema Magwaza Fuze (c. 1844–1922).
Photograph by Justine Wintjes.
Fuze is well-known as the author of Abantu Abamnyama: Lapa Bavela Ngakona (later translated as The Black People and Whence They Came), the first book-length publication in Zulu by a mother-tongue Zulu speaker. This year 2022 marks the centenary of the first publication of this book, in 1922, which was also the year in which he died.
The gourd is such a beautifully round and tangible thing, and yet we have decidedly little information on it, and nothing from Fuze himself. Was it his? Did he use it? And why did he donate it to the Museum?
As a vessel for drinking beer (utshwala), the gourd helped reinforce connections between a person’s ancestors, the present-day, and future generations. In his final years, Fuze thought a great deal about what becomes of a person after death, and it seems fitting that we should be celebrating his memory around this object.
On Monday 5 December we ‘unveiled’ the gourd in a new display, alongside a launch by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press of a new edition of Fuze’s book in both Zulu and English.
The books are available for purchase individually or as a handsome double box-set from UKZN Press.
Fuze’s gourd is on display in the upper gallery of the KwaZulu-Natal Museum.
Photograph by Justine Wintjes
Photograph by Asanda Ntshingila