Beadwork identity as brand equity : an analysis of beadwork conventions as the basis for craft economies in KwaZulu-Natal, with specific emphasis on the beadwork of Amanyuswa.
Gatfield, Rowan Christopher.
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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 whether the people within one such polity, the amaNyuswa 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, it examines whether 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 that continue to impact on the survival of amaNyuswa 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 amaNyuswa, 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 amaNyuswa, the extended amaQadi, and the larger amaNgcobo polity. Many of these groups elect to denotatively represent themselves through isijolovane , also referred to as isiyolovane , 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 diaspora 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.