The Phansi Museum

Phansi Museum

The Phansi Museum houses one of the world's largest publicly accessible collections of Southern African artifacts. The collection includes: Zulu, Xhosa, Shangaan and Ndebele beadwork, telephone-wire baskets, carved wooden meat platters and milk pails, ceramic beer pots, snuff spoons, containers and pipes, walking sticks, wood, vinyl and Perspex earplugs.

The collection is housed in Roberts House, a fully restored Victorian National Monument in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. All three floors of the building house innovative contemporary displays. A large space on the top storey has 30 life-size marionettes on display. These are dressed and adorned with beadwork, garments, jewellery and ceremonial objects, from the various 'tribal' regions of Southern Africa. They illustrate the complex visual language which communicates regional identity and social structures through the use of color, material and design.

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Phansi Museum

'Phansi' is pronounced 'punzi', meaning 'below' in Zulu, after the basement location where it began. The museum houses some of South Africa's largest collections of traditional art, crafts and artifacts. The collection is beautifully displayed in Robert's House, a restored Victorian National Monument. In 2006, through funding by the Bartel Arts Trust, the museum was able to construct spectacular new displays and to expand to the ground and 1st floor of the building.

Robert's House was built in 1898, and was home to Esther Roberts, who lived there her entire life. She was one of South Africa's first female anthropologists, and wrote several historical novels. The museum promotes original music, performing arts and oral history through the hosting of regular live events.

Some of the highlights of the museum are:

Life-size doll displays illustrating full ceremonial wear from different regions and cultures of Southern Africa.

Beadworks from the different regions of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and some outstanding examples from the Ndebele people. The beadwork dates from the present back to the 19th century.

Numerous headrests, meat-platters, carved spoons, and a fine collection of Zulu clay pots.

Various other treasures such as earplugs, snuff bottles, snuff spoons, pipes, fertility dolls and beautifully carved sticks.

phansi Museum 3 The Phansi Museum has a contemporary collection of telephone-wire baskets, and modern sculptures.

An extensive collection of Shangaan pieces, including rare Sangoma clothing and artifacts.


Travel South along Lina Arense Rd (Manning Rd), cross Alan Paton Rd (MacDonald) and Albert Dlomo Rd (Willowvale), turn left into Deodar Rd and right into Esther Roberts Rd (Frere Rd), 0.4km up the hill, where you will find Roberts House at the corner of Cedar Rd and Esther Roberts Rd.

TELEPHONE NUMBER: 031 206 2889

Per entry