The Abundant Herds

The Abundant Herds


  • Author: Marguerite Poland & David Hammon-Tooke
  • Publisher: Fernwood Press
  • Publish Date: 2003
  • ISBN: 1874950695
  • Price: 30 Approx

Review By : Ian Knight

A book about cows? On a website dedicated to the Anglo-Zulu War? In fact, this gorgeous coffee-table book is an enticing examination of the long-standing love affair between the Zulu and their cattle. It looks at the role of cattle in traditional Zulu society, not only as a source of food and hides, but also as an expression of wealth, the central role they played in social interactions like marriage, and their position as a conduit with the spirit world. The imagery of cattle also dominated the language of ordinary Zulu, giving rise to much of their poetic expression. The first streaks of morning light were known, for example, as ‘the horns of the morning’ – the time when cattle could first be discerned against a lightening sky – while the famous attack formation was known as ‘the bull’s horns’. The book offers a useful historical perspective which should interest those primarily interested in the conflicts of the nineteenth century, since cattle were, of course, a way through which the power and patronage of the Zulu kings was expressed, and one of the functions of the great royal homesteads – the amakhanda – was to house and protect the royal herds. The shields of the Zulu amabutho were taken from the hides of royal cattle, and were matched according to their colour. And indeed, the greater part of the book looks at traditional Zulu names of their cattle, and these are explored alongside beautifully rendered paintings of traditional Nguni cattle patterns. A white animal, for example, with red or black ears, was known as ‘inyonikayipumuli’ – the bird that never rests – a reference to the power and glory of the old kingdom, when such cattle were the prized herds of the Zulu kings, and were so plentiful that the cattle egrets following in their wake could never be still. A dark beast with light legs and belly is likened to a woman crossing a ford, hitching up her traditional leather skirt to show her pale legs; other patterns were thought to represent the colour of a snakes skin, the dappled effect of light through a thorn bush, or a birds eggs. This is a beautiful, charming book, and it is thoroughly recommended to any seeking an insight into the tradition, linguistic artistry and soul of the Zulu people.

 

Monday 16th of January 2006 05:56:38 PM