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date: 26 May 2020



South African, 19th century, male.

Wood carver.

Unobadula is the only example of an African carver from colonial Natal identified by name. A photographic portrait of him exists, taken in the 1860s by Dr Robert Mann. Mann had been tasked by the colonial authorities to collect material culture for the 1862 London International Exhibition – a world fair showing products and industries of 36 countries. Mann’s catalogue for this exhibition records that Unobadula was a ‘renowned artisan who live[d] upon the Ixeku [Mqeku] river, a tributary of the Umgeni [Mngeni]’. Five of his carved wooden works were exhibited at the London exhibition – some probably commissioned for the exhibition. London-based collector Henry Christie purchased the objects from Natal and, after his death, some were donated to the British Museum.

Hamilton, C. (ed.)/Leibhammer, N. (ed.): Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Identity and the Material Record in Southern KwaZulu-Natal in the Late Independent and Colonial Periods...

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