South Africa: The Art of a Nation review | The Guardian

26 Oct 2016

Can war be beautiful? It was undoubtedly an art of sublime elegance for the Zulu nation in the 19th century, when they used some of the most precise military manoeuvres ever planned to massacre an entire British army.  


The Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 shocked and perplexed the Age of Empire. Warriors equipped mostly with spears and ox-hide shields should not have been able to destroy a European force armed with Martini-Henry rifles, it seemed to Victorians.

In the British Museum’s thoughtful and illuminating new exhibition about the art of South Africa, two spears found in the body of Lt Edgar Oliphant Anstey after the battle are on display next to a pair of bull’s horns engraved with scenes from the Anglo-Zulu war. Bulls inspired the Zulu art of war. Their devastating strategy at the Battle of Isandlwana was called “the horns of the bull”. Two flanking armies of the youngest, fastest-running warriors – the “horns” – surrounded the British and drove them back against ranks of seasoned soldiers waiting for the kill...Click to continue reading



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