The Zulu Bride


The Zulu Bride painting keeps undergoing changes. As much as I found the texture I initially applied interesting, I figured it really does not match any of the other portraits I have done. So I took the palette knife to it and started scraping off paint. There were other elements in the painting that bothered me as well and after hours of repainting and thickly applying paint to cover what was there before the painting took on a new look. 

There is still more work to be done, but I figured I post this update.


Photo courtesy of Arts Connected

Learning about the customs of other cultures has always been very interesting to me and I really wanted to find out more about the odd shape of the hats the women of the Zulu tribe wear.  Women of all cultures have always taken great pride in their appearances and in the 19th century Zulu women created cone shaped upward coiffure designs.


Over time  it became fashionable to make removable hats. I found a wonderful web site, which has a great number of photos showing the evolution of these hat designs. What I found most interesting was that the early hats had human hair woven into it, in order for the hat to remain as an extension of the individual's head.


Photo Courtesy of

The hat above was made from palm fiber, cord, fabric , hard board and human hair. Because of the basket style weaving technique there was no limit on how large the hat could be, so if bigger is better, Zulu women adopted some rather elaborate hat designs. After Europeans introduced beads to the tribes decorating theses hats with elaborate bead designs became also very fashionable.

south africa - zulu reed dance ceremony

Photo by

Walter Callens

Bright colors are very popular, especially for wedding ceremonies. Brides, unlike married women who wear black hats, wear red hats that are adorned with colored beads. The bead design is repeated in the design of the earrings and belt. In Zulu culture wearing a scarf around the shoulders is a sign of respect. For a young bride entering into marriage the scarf demands respect from the grooms family. In this video Zulu clothing designer Rose Mabunda explains how she is making merging traditional designs into more modern variations for today's Zulu women. 


Painting by Enzie Shahmiri

January 1st, 2012 signals the start of a new exhibit at the Artist Eye Gallery titled "Faces". I was hoping to have "The Zulu Bride" ready for the exhibit, but I changed my mind. Although I sort of liked the way this painting was going I decided to rework it into a more realistic version. An update of the painting will soon be posted again.


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