The Order of Mapungubwe
The central motif for this Order is Mapungubwe. A millennium ago, the amazing Kingdom of Mapungubwe existed in the northern corner of South Africa. It comprised a sophisticated state system, with highly developed agriculture, mining and metallurgy industries. The kingdom traded with countries as far afield as China. According to the Department of Archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Mapungubwe represented “the most complex society in southern Africa”. It is reputed to be the origin of the people, culture and foundation for the achievements of Great Zimbabwe.
Mapungubwe Hill is a sandstone hill located on a mudstone deposit in the northern part of Limpopo, known for its arid subtropical climate and erratic summer rains. Out of this seeming barrenness, like an oasis in the desert, there blossomed the complex and highly developed state and culture, centred around a thriving town built on and around Mapungubwe Hill, which served as the capital of the ancient Mapungubwe Kingdom.
The artefacts found on Mapungubwe Hill serve as further design elements for the Order named after it. Foregrounded on Mapungubwe Hill is the famous Mapungubwe rhino, a figurine made of high-quality gold foil formed around a soft core (probably sculpted wood), which was found on the hill and is treasured at the University of Pretoria.
The bottom segment of the design represents the skill and craft of smelting, smithing, pottery and ceramics. At the base of this segment is a fire representing the furnace used to purify and temper metal and fire pottery. The furnace also evokes the life-sustaining properties of fire, harnessed by humankind since the Iron Age to provide warmth and sustenance. Fire thus represents the advancement of humankind.
Above the furnace, at the centre of the lower segment, is a decorated and overflowing urn representing the pots used to melt gold or iron ore. The urn overflows and divides symmetrically to merge into two ornately turned Mapungubwe sceptres – based on real artefacts found on the hill – which hem the urn in on both sides.
The overflow of the urn symbolises abundance of wealth, excellence, the earliest achievements in metallurgy and the first advances in science and artistic expression.
The sheer opulence and majesty of the shape of the Mapungubwe sceptre and the extremely delicate craftsmanship of the Mapungubwe rhino reflect remarkable workmanship, very rare by the standards of the time. Arising as it did from application and knowledge, the message is that South Africa and its people can prosper, regardless of the conditions in which they find themselves.
Awardees of this Order receive three elements:
- a neck badge (a platinum, gold, silver or bronze medallion on a neck band);
- a miniature (a miniature platinum, gold, silver or bronze medallion for wearing as a brooch or on the breast pocket);
- and a platinum, gold, silver or bronze lapel rosette.
Recipients of the Order are entitled to indicate that they have been invested with the relevant category of the Order by the use of the following post-nominal letters:
- OMP for recipients of the Order of Mapungubwe (platinum)
- OMG for recipients of the Order of Mapungubwe (gold)
- OMS for recipients of the Order of Mapungubwe (silver)
- OMB for recipients of the Order of Mapungubwe (bronze)