African Tribal Art - Skirt, Xhosa or Mfengu People, South Africa

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Skirt (Isikhakha or Umbhaco)
Xhosa or Mfengu peoples, South Africa
Cotton, wool, glass beads, shell buttons, ochre pigment
20th century
61 (154.5 cm) long by 54 (137 cm) wide

Isikhakha or umbhaco were typically made from a white cotton blanket dyed with ochre. It would have been folded over a tied belt with two long beaded tassels. The horizontal beaded decoration is composed of straight rows and zigzags sewn between very narrow strips of black wool that have been appliqued over the entire front of the garment. Alternating with the beading are rows of mother-of-pearl buttons, which, when worn, must have shimmered with movement. There is a two-sided patch and a few stains on the area that would be folded under, otherwise, this skirt is in excellent condition.


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