About this object

Nancy Cunard (1896-1965) the shipping heiress and political activist became an unlikely supporter of the museum’s rebuilding in the 1950s.

She had visited the museum and its Africa collections in 1932 to carry out research for her major book, “Negro Anthology”. In 1954 she asked to revisit the collections for her project on African ivories, but was horrified to hear that the museum had been bombed and that the ivories were now stored in chaotic conditions in the damp Carnatic Hall in Mossley Hill, south Liverpool.

She became a tireless campaigner for the museum’s rebuilding, lobbying her influential friends (including the artists Henry Moore and Augustus John), the editors of national newspapers and Members of Parliament. She visited the museum staff and collections many times and was there to see the reopening of the Lower Horseshoe gallery in 1956. The first part of the museum to reopen after the Blitz.

She also donated a small group of jewellery from Africa, including this beaded anklet from South Africa. She was a colourful character who often wore huge ivory bracelets from West Africa. So it is fitting that she is remembered in the collections in this way.

Object specifics

  • Type
    Personal Ornament
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Africa: Southern Africa: South Africa
  • Date made
    Before 1957
  • Materials
    Beads, vegetable fibre, brass
  • Location
    World Museum, Level 3, Weston Discovery Centre
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Nancy Cunard, 1957.
  • Collector
    Nancy Cunard
  • Place collected
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Date collected
    By 1957
  • Measurements
    230 mm; x 9 1/16 in
  • Note
    Among the Northern Nguni beads and beadwork personal ornaments played important roles in dowry payments and in courtship relations. Prior to marriage young women made beadwork pieces for their potential or future husbands as an expresion of affection or appreciation. Beadwork ornaments were worn on social and ceremonial occasions.
  • Related people
    Nancy Cunard (Collector)
Object view = Humanities
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