The Nguni cattle breed is special to Southern Africa and they are characterized by the uniquely multi-coloured and patterned hides. Nguni cows have long played an important economic and social role in the culture and development of several African peoples including the Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi and Ndebele.
Throughout the ages the well-being of the herds and the people have been so closely connected that the Nguni cattle have become a vital part of these peoples’ spiritual and aesthetic heritages, with Nguni being valued as bride dowries while King Shaka of the Zulu nation even bred Ngunis according to colour and pattern to produce specific hide markings for the different regiments of his army.
Just as our fingerprints, no two Ngnui hides are the same. Like Zimbela, these cattle are uniquely Southern African and together with such strikingly beautiful and multi-coloured hide patterns, they inspired us to create this dedicated Nguni Collection to showcase furniture made from animal hides that were fit for a king.
Zimbela is proud and grateful to call the United Arab Emirates (UAE) our home. In 2018 the UAE will honour the legacy, vision and generosity of its Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan, by celebrating the 100 year anniversary of his birth in what will be known as “The Year of Zayed”.
The royal regiment of King Shaka’s impi carried shields made from the hides of pure white or speckled white Nguni cows. Only such hides were deemed appropriate to signify the royalty that the regiment protected. In homage to a great leader and visionary, and a person certainly worthy of royal status, and in time for our participation at the INDEX 2018 Interior Design Exhibition, Zimbela proudly unveiled the flagship piece for our Nguni Collection; the very new “Zayed Royal Wingback”.
The languages of these African tribes are steeped in rich metaphor and together with the interaction between their natural surroundings and the beauty of Nguni hides, led to the formation of over three hundred illustrative words in their vocabularies describing the limitless variances in Nguni hide patterns and colours; words most often associated with animals, birds, plants and other natural wonders.
Capturing the delicate interrelationship between their cattle and the natural world, this ancient and complex tradition of poetic naming celebrates and preserves the culture and linguistic imagination, versatility and creativity of the Zulu people in particular.
Linked to images in nature, cattle with specific colour and patterns on their hides are given unique names, some which are translated here.
Zulu name: inasenezimbukane; meaning: “flies in the buttermilk”
Zulu name: imaqandakahuye; meaning: “the eggs of the lark”
Zulu name: matshezulu; meaning: “stones and sky”
Zulu name: madixadixa; meaning: “small boy playing in mud”
Zulu name: mpunga; meaning: “old person”
Zulu name: idube; meaning: “zebra” (one of the rarest Nguni patterns and surprisingly never black and white as expected, but a brindled colour with streaks of black on a dark reddish brown hide)