Council for Museum Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Hilda Kuper was a Jewish political-legal anthropologist, novelist and playwright, born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia in 1911. She grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and received her anthropological training with Winifred Hoernlé at the University of Witwatersrand and Bronislaw Malinowski at the London School of Economics. Kuper is best known for her research in Swaziland where she became a citizen in 1970; Hilda took a “Swazi point of view,” arguing that Westernization weakened women’s position. Very little has been written about Hilda’s collaboration with Swazi anthropologist, Thoko Ginindza (1942-1996). Though nothing has been published about their Swazi artifact collection at the UCLA Fowler Museum, these Swazi women’s clothing and adornment items provide tangible evidence of the transracial and transnational collaboration between Kuper and Ginindza. Hilda and her husband, Leo Kuper, came to UCLA after increasing police surveillance made staying in South Africa untenable. Hilda eventually became a professor in Anthropology. Thoko wrote to Hilda (whom she knew from Swaziland) in 1967 asking for Hilda's assistance to attend UCLA, where Thoko earned a MA in African Studies in 1972. Their shared research emphasized the impact of colonization and the traditional Swazi aristocracy on women’s roles in Swaziland, manifested through gendered clothing norms. This paper will provide a history and visual analysis of the Swazi collection and their research relationship through an exploration of correspondence between Kuper and Ginindza and fieldwork photographs from the Hilda Kuper Papers held in the UCLA Special Collections.