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DUT jeweller makes jewellery from cow horn

DUT jeweller makes jewellery from cow horn

Media statement by Nomonde Mbadi, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs

Bonginkosi Tshabalala is applying his expertise to design and make beautiful pieces of jewellery from cow horn. His precious jewellery ranges from earrings, neckpiece and finger rings. He has been developing and finetuning his jewellery work for the past nine years.

Tshabalala is a qualified jeweller and he is a junior lecturer lecturing in jewellery design and manufacture at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). He has a National Diploma and BTech degree in this field. He is currently doing a Masters degree in Fine Art. The cow horn jewellery is also part of his Masters degree study. He was born and bred in Jabulani, Soweto in Johannesburg, and now based in Durban.

“My jewellery is unique in that it has contemporary South Africa edge if compared with commercial jewellery which looks the same. I combined my gold smithing technique to make this jewellery,” comments Tshabalala. Hew makes his jewellery using cow horn, silver or gold.

A soft spoken and passionate Tshabalala says his interest in working with a cow horn began in 2000 when he was doing his second year Artist project. He was tasked to find a local artist, learn more about the work they were doing, if he loved it, he had to apply it in creating a piece of jewellery. He visited a local man who was a traditional healer. He found that the traditional healer was using cow horn to make containers for his medicine. Impressed, he applied this in making his jewellery and it worked perfectly for him. He then started collecting cow horn material. ‘It’s just the beginning’ for him because he still working to improve his jewellery and to introduce new features make more beautiful.
His concern is that it is very difficult to source cow horn because of African beliefs. He informs that most South African tribes slaughter cows for rituals and celebrations which are attached to their ancestors. He adds that once the beast has been slaughtered, its horns is placed on the roof above the door and this acts as a signal to the ancestors that the sacrifice has taken place. He says people uphold that the horn must stay on the roof until it’s cleaned by insects and elements. He says superstitions such as witchcraft also makes it difficult to source horn from Zulu people because they some believe that one can harm the family by using elements that connect them with their ancestors.

He also found that the abattoirs cut their cows’ horns short because the long sharp ones could cause injury amongst the cattle which will lead to the loss of revenue. He cannot use the cut ones.

All the horns that he has been using for the past 3 yrs come from Manguzi, north of KZN by the Mozambique border. There were road side butcheries slaughtering cows and selling meat to the passers by until the government closed them down last year because of stock theft.

His jewellery is on exhibition at the Artisan Gallery in Florida road. He has had a couple of joint exhibitions with his colleagues. In 2008 and 2009 he had his work exhibited at the annual Design Indaba in Cape Town. He is hoping to have more exhibitions of his jewellery to get it in the market. The price for his jewellery ranges from R400 to R1500, and R600 to R2500, depending on labour, time and the amount of silver or gold used. He has observed that tourists from European countries love his jewellery. He says local people appreciate it but rather prefer gold and diamond.