Ndoro are southern Africa’s most striking totems of prestige and beauty. They were originally seashells that had been ground flat into their distinctive whirl shape. Ndoro found in Zimbabwe can be divided into two separate categories. Firstly, there is the original marine mollusc of the genus Conus Virgo or the calcareous Operculum of large marine snails such as Conus Turbo and secondly, there is the mass-produced factory copies of the natural mollusc.
Having established themselves on the Mozambique coast and having started trade links with the interior, the Portuguese first learned of the value placed upon the ndoro, which, because of its scarcity, was much sought-after. The Portuguese took advantage of this demand by introducing large quantities of the natural mollusc, ndoro and later, mass-produced factory ceramic and porcelain copies. Portuguese traders of the sixteenth, seventeenth and later centuries are believed to have exchanged ndoro for gold, ivory and other goods. Most of the ndoro found in Zimbabwe today are the ceramic or porcelain copies of the natural ndoro.
Perhaps the earliest written reference to the ndoro can be found in the journals of a sixteenth century Portuguese chronicler who observed that: ‘The Monomatapa and the Macarangas and their vassals wear on their foreheads a white shell, as a jewel, strung from the hair, and the Monomatapa wears another large shell on his chest. They call these shells Andoros’.
According to a colourful legend, the ndoro played a dramatic role in the early history of Zimbabwe. At some time in the fifteenth century, it helped in a battle. The story goes that a descendant of Mutota, the apparent founder of the Munhumutapa dynasty, was trying to subjugate a rival king named Karuva. Discovering, through a spy, that Karuva held the ndoro in great awe and respect, he ordered his warriors to wear ndoro upon their foreheads as they marched into battle against Karuva’s forces. On seeing the ndoro-ornamented soldiers approach, Karuva became confused, and the tide of the battle turned against him.
In the northeastern region of Zimbabwe, oral history suggests that ndoro were brought into the country by the Muzungu or Gouveias, or Portuguese traders, from Mozambique. Ndoro were used by chiefs in Shona society as symbols of rank and authority and as signifiers of wealth.
Patrick has used the ndoro shape in many of his jewellery designs including chains, pendants and earrings. Silver ndoro age beautifully and always have that African look and feel to them.
Item code: 644-407
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