Collection Artwork
vessel for serving beer (Izikhamba)
20th century
blackened terracotta
overall size: 15 1/2 x 15 3/8 x 15 3/8 in.
Gift of Bill and Gale Simmons
South Africa, Zulu, Africa

Object Label

These two Zulu beer pots, while designed for use in a domestic setting, also play a key role in Zulu rituals. The Zulu consider beer as food for their ancestors, making the offering of libations a communicative device with the spiritual realm. They place these pots in the darkened rear of their households, a sacred and covert zone where ancestors might linger. The black coloration of the pots further emphasizes this association between darkness and ancestral spirits. Therefore, these beer pots function as intermediaries between the earthly and spiritual realms.

From the exhibition: African Pots and Gender (November 14, 2009 – January 3, 2010)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

Learn more

African Pots and Gender
Containing Culture:
West African Pottery and Tradition
Pattern by Monica Andrews '19
Inspired by the exhibition 3-D Doings: The Imagist Object in Chicago Art, 1964-1980
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.