Pride of place in the collection goes to the mobile wooden chair made for the ailing King Mpande by the first Norwegian missionary in Zululand, Bishop Hans Schreuder. In the 1850’s King Mpande had great difficulty in walking due to his obesity caused probably by the disease now known as dropsy.
Bishop Schreuder had gained a reputation as a ‘doctor’ amongst his Zulu converts and was called upon to alleviate the suffering of the king. Also on display are several rare brass armbands (ingxotha) worn by kings and soldiers, who were decorated for their bravery during the time of King Dingane, King Mpande and King Cetshwayo. These accessories which were a sign of high status but incredibly uncomfortable to wear reveal the early craft of Zulu metalwork.
The museum also houses an impressive collection of fine mahogany and teak furniture and memorabilia from the main residences which housed the only White Chief of Zululand, John Dunn, his 49 wives and 117 children. Although Dunn had adopted Zulu customs and a Zulu Lifestyle, his taste in furnishings reflect a distinct European fondness for comfort.
There has been a renaissance in Zulu arts and craft since the Vukani Association was formed more than 30 years ago to revive the then dying art of basketry. Through Vukani, men and women have pooled their inherited knowledge of grasses, palm leaves, natural dyes, beadwork, woodcarving and ceramics to produce a range of contemporary items with a traditional theme.
The Vukani Museum houses some of the best work collected over the years. Several of the artists have gone on to receive international recognition and it is worth seeking their work out.
The late Nesta Nala came from a long line of ukhamba makers who lived in Thukela valley. Traditionally the clay pots would have been used for beer brewing and drinking but by working with new tools and designs, Nesta Nala elevated these everyday domestic objects to an art form.
A chance meeting with archaeologists excavating near her home in the 1980’s exposed her to early Iron Age pottery designs which she then developed into her signature style and today this tradition is being carried on by her daughters. The late Reuben Ndwandwe from the Hlabisa area was one of the few remaining men who still weaved baskets. His imbenge and unyazi were characterised by their diamond designs and fine overstitching which created a lacelike texture.
Eshowe’s modern history begins with the arrival of Norwegian missionaries in the mid-19th Century. In 1854 Rev Hans Schreuder (pictured right) of the Norwegian Mission Society was granted permission by King Mpande to start a mission station at Ntumeni.
Seven years later, a second Norgwegian, Rev Ommund Oftebro,/, established a mission at kwaMondi (situated in the present King Dinuzulu Suburb in Eshowe).
The Zululand Mission Museum is housed in a contemporary version of the traditional Norwegian mission chapels and the museum pays tribute to the legacy of these early men of God and the spread of Christianity in Zululand.
The MISSION MUSEUM CHAPEL is in a beautiful setting and can be hired for weddings and functions.