By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

South Africa; Zulu artist



H. 20.32 cm (8 in)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Gift of Marc Felix in honor of Mary Hagihara Kujawski Roberts, 1992.49

The Zulu and related groups such as the Sotho and Tswana drink beers made of fermented millet, corn, and sorghum, brewed in large pots specifically made for that purpose. Smaller pots with short, narrow necks are made for the transport of beer, while pots like this one are designed for drinking beer. Beer is consumed on various occasions, passed from person to person at social and ceremonial gatherings. Women make the pots by coiling thin strips of clay around a base and scraping the interior to create extraordinarily thin walls. This pot is decorated with pellets of clay, creating raised patterns called amasumpa (“warts”). Amasumpa represent the raised bumps or cicatrization (similar to scarification) that adorns the bodies of Zulu women. Alternatively, they may refer to cattle, the primary measure of prosperity in traditional Zulu society (Klopper).