Looking A Head: Revisiting the Lydenburg Heads

Between 1962 and 1964, a young boy discovered strange pieces of pottery eroding out of a gully in Lydenburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa. Although the fragments were not formally excavated, most pieces were found and reconstructed to make up seven clay heads – collectively known as the Lydenburg Heads. This exhibition revisits these African treasures and the interesting symbols that adorn them - ultimately bringing into conversation the notion of Rites of Passage.

Iziko Museums of South Africa is the custodian of the Lydenburg Heads, and this online showcase pre-empts a physical exhibition of the artefacts – which will be opened at the Iziko South African Museum in the near future.

In this showcase, Iziko is sharing two videos about the Lydenburg Heads and Rites of Passage, as well as hosting a living memory bank.

Iziko invites friends, family and visitors to help us bring these artefacts to life by sharing diverse stories of Rites of Passage experiences; these stories will be shared online, and will later be included in the physical exhibition at the Iziko South African Museum.

Through Looking A Head: Revisiting the Lydenburg Heads, Iziko explores how museums and the artefacts they house can become more inclusive, and how that inclusivity can help bring the artefacts to life.


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Ever gone through a formal or informal ceremony marking the passage from one religious or social status to another? We would love to hear from you!

From coming-of-age events – such as your Matric Ball, a special birthday celebration, or your Ntonjane – right through to marriages or births, these are all considered Rites of Passage. They are celebrated around the world, and throughout history.

Connect with the present, the archaeological, and the historical by joining Iziko in creating a living memory bank! Share your thoughts and experiences of both informal and formal Rites of Passage, and let us know how this transitional event has affected your lived experience, contributed to how you identify with others, or how you felt before, during and after the ceremony.

We’d love for you to be a part of this!

Please respect the platform as well as the sensitive nature of certain Rites of Passage, and share with us what you are able to.

T&Cs: Iziko will use this content in exhibitions and marketing materials. You will be attributed if you leave your name or social media handles in the comment; anonymous comments are also welcome.

Exhibition comments

Submitted by Nicole Jean McComb (not verified) on Tue, 05/26/2020 - 11:42


When you grow up in a small town, there are limited options for where you hang out with your friends as a teenager and when you do get to go to there hallowed places you bump into 'everyone' . We had the beach, school, our friend's houses, the local church evening group (youth) and the best place: the movies.

Often 'going to the movies' actually meant hanging out and loitering in the shopping mall, checking out your crush, spend you limited pocket money on milkshakes and general self conscious tom-foolery.

I will never forget the evening my parents agreed that I could go to the 7 o'clock movie with just my friends (no parental supervision) at age 12. This was it, my passage into womanhood. No more animation movies that ended by 7 o'clock when as you were leaving you could see the new crowd of cool kids move in.

For reasons to long to explain I didn't have access to my cupboard and all my 'cool clothes' that would propel me into instant popularity but this opportunity to be apart of 7pm no parent club was to good to miss for a fashion funk.

As I was leaving in a top and a pair of jeans that would just get my through on preteen fashion standards my mom asked me 'where my jersey was' I replied that I didn't need one because I had no Jersey. She retorted that I couldn't go to the movies unless I had a jersey (or anything of warmth) this resulted in a 5 minute sulk, a preteen motivation of fashion suicide and finally a submission to wearing an school anorak (a navy windbreaker of practical problem solving) to Friday night movies. I had failed my small town cotilian. An American idea of when you are presented to the world in your finest dress for all the young suitors to see. I had done so in a school anorak. My friend dressed from head to toe in all the skater brands even commented on the fact, 'why are you wearing an anorak?'. Social Life Over.

And so after traveling the world from the East to the West, obtaining a degree, starting my own small company. I have ended up back in my small town and when I am feeling disspointedly single I am determined to blame it on the fact that it is because I wore an anarak to the 7 o'clock movies all those years ago. Everyone still sees me as the anarak 12 year old. Maybe I do to.

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