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Xhosa woman in South Africa smoking an inqawe/inqawa

Typically, the long-stemmed pipes are smoked by older women – women that tend to have a high status within the community, while men smoke the short-stemmed pipes. The pipes were commonly made by specialist pipe carvers, who would sell their wares in their own as well as in surrounding villages. These pipe carvers used the heartwood of the “mnyamanzi” or Acacia Caffra tree, which grows in the central regions of the Eastern Cape. In many areas in the Eastern Cape, such as areas close to the Drakensberg, this particular acacia does not grow, so pipe carving was not commonly practiced in those areas. 

The hole in the stem of the pipe is made using a long heated awl, called an “ibhola” in isiXhosa. The bowl was hollowed out and usually lined with a piece of tin to prevent the wooden bowl from charring or

burning when the pipe was smoked. The detachable mouthpiece or “ingcaphe” was usually made by the owner of the pipe and was not shared by another smoker who might want to have a few puffs of a friend’s pipe. The reasons that the mouthpieces were not shared, had nothing to do with the issue of health, but rather to avoid being contaminated by magic.

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