Barbara Tyrrell and the Campbell Collections

A rewarding relationship

Killie Campbell and Barbara Tyrrell Barbara Tyrrell is known internationally for her detailed costume studies of the traditional dress of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa.

Barbara Eleanor Harcourt Tyrrell was born on March 15th 1912 in Durban. Her father, who died while she was a small child, had occupied the post of assistant magistrate and later interpreter in the Department of Native Affairs and had been stationed in various Natal towns, his final posting being to Eshowe, Zululand. Tyrrell's grandfather was Frederick Fynney, interpreter and companion to the Zulu king Cetshwayo during the latter's visit to Queen Victoria in 1882.1

Killie Campbell and Barbara Tyrrell

Jo Thorpe and a generation of African Artists

Jo Thorpe was associated with the African Art Centre in Durban for some thirty years. She joined the staff of the Natal Region of the South African Institute of Race Relations in 1959. While working for the Institute, she came across a box of beautifully crafted beadwork from Nongoma, Zululand, which had been left over from a fete held the previous year. This was to be the small beginning of what became the African Art Centre in 1963. In 1984 the Centre split from the Institute of Race Relations to become an autonomous, self-supporting development project.
The stated aims of this project were:

To encourage and promote the traditional skills of African people and to help the transition from traditional to contemporary expression; to provide incentives for artists and craftsmen; to assist self-help projects financially by promoting and marketing art and craft; and to help artists and craftsmen by sponsoring training in skills and by holding exhibitions.1

Jo Thorpe was singularly successful in the accomplishment of these aims. Even after her retirement in 1991 she remained committed to the Centre as a consultant while also compiling a history of the Centre called It's never too early: African Art and Craft in KwaZulu-Natal 1960-1990, published by the Centre for Social and Development Studies of the University of Natal in 1994. Thorpe died on 18 February 1995 at the age of 74.

Historical artwork

Historical artwork, often termed africana art, comprises mainly 19th century topographical artworks. Many are lithographic and engraved plate-illustrations from published works by traveller-artists who recorded their fascinating 'discoveries' of indigenous culture, fauna and flora.

WCP Burchell's Kora

The Englishman, William Burchell, for instance, set out on his Cape travels in June 1811, returning in 1815 with some 500 drawings to illustrate his two-volume account,

Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa (London: Longman, Hurst and Co. 1822- 4).

Of these field sketches he says:

"Every additional sketch was, I considered, a triumph over oblivion, and a powerful assistant to recollection." 1

Inventory of KCAL Microfilm holdings

Below is an index of microfilm holdings at the Killie Campbell Africana Library. The microfilm collections have been categorised in the following sections:

Other publications

Manuscript Collections on Microfilm in the Killie Campbell Africana Library

(*)Indicates that we also have some hard copy material relating to these Collections
(+) In process

Killie Campbell: Biographical Essay

A dedicated collector of South African history: Dr Killie Campbell

Killie in the fiftiesMargaret Roach Campbell, or Killie Campbell, as she was later known, was born at Mount Edgecombe on 9 September 1881, the second of four children of the Natal senator and sugar magnate, Sir Marshall Campbell. She was educated at St. Anne's Diocesan College in Natal and at St. Leonard's School in Scotland where, in her own, words, she acquired, "an enthusiasm for History, and a love of historical places." 1

Killie Campbell Africana Library

Killie in her library c1950
Killie in her library c1950
The Killie Campbell Africana Library is well known for its comprehensive collection of books, manuscripts and photographs, covering a broad sweep of information about the south east African region and its population.

Some highlights of this collection are the Historic Photograph Holdings, a large section of which is accessible on the web, the James Stuart papers which record some 200 testimonies of oral history and tradition taken down by this early 20th century Natal civil servant.

Campbell Collections

The Campbell Collections are housed in a neo-Cape Dutch style house, Muckleneuk, formerly the home of Natal sugar farmer and politician Sir Marshall Campbell (1848 - 1917). The Campbell Collections were established by Marshall's son William (1880 - 1962) and his daughter Killie Campbell (1881 - 1965). Killie Campbell, a well known africana collector, lived in Muckleneuk until her death in 1965 when her collections were bequeathed to the University of Natal.

Shaka, Zulu King Muckleneuk, home of the Campbell Collections Killie and William Campbell
Shaka kaSenzangakhona Muckleneuk Killie and William Campbell

Campbell Collections holds major resources for research into the history and culture of southern Africa and KwaZulu-Natal.

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KC as patron of the arts


Historical art pics


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