By Jeremy Bostwick – Senior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
As European colonialism continued in late 19th-century Africa, fewer and fewer native tribes were free from the yoke of domination. Such was the plight of the mighty Zulu nation, whose ancestors continue to comprise the largest ethnic group in modern-day South Africa.
Following the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, concessions were made to the victorious British, and the Zulu territory was broken up with the realm of King Cetshwayo greatly diminished. This fracturing of Zululand quickly proved ineffective, and the British restored Cetshwayo to his previous position, save for those lands ceded to one of the king’s relatives, Zibhebhu. Wanting the entire throne for himself, Zibhebhu launched an attack, wounding the king and driving him into exile. Cetshwayo died a few months later, at which point his son, Dinuzulu, ascended to the contested Zulu throne.
Attempting to restore his birthright, Dinuzulu unsuccessfully beseeched the British for help in his battles against Zibhebhu. He then sought aid from neighboring Boers, promising them territory should their partnership prove victorious. Under General Louis Botha, “Dinuzulu’s volunteers” were able to defeat Zibhebhu and his forces at the Battle of Ghost Mountain in June 1884. This achievement was fairly short-lived, as Dinuzulu was unable to retain control of the Zulu territories, as the omnipresent British continued their destabilization of the region. The territory continued to shrink, ultimately being absorbed by the South African Republic in 1888. Dinuzulu then spent some years in exile and as a pawn of the British. Following the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, Dinuzulu’s release was arranged by his ally at the Battle of Ghost Mountain—Louis Botha—then the first Prime Minister. Just a few years later, Dinuzulu passed away at the age of 44/5.
Numismatic material pertaining to the Zulu nation is by its very nature rare, as coins weren’t utilized in the same way as they were by the colonizers. One item connected to this interesting history is a bronze award medal offered in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries June Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auction. This incredibly rare item bears the Zulu arms along with mentioning Dinuzulu himself; the award was clearly meant to be given to those who had faithfully served the king during his fight to avenge his father. The medal exhibits some scattered scuffs and marks, as well as a few subtle rim bruises and a mount removal.
Compelling and historic, this medal represents an aspect of numismatics that is very rarely seen.
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We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our June Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auction, our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money in August, and our fall Hong Kong Auction in September. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.