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Ndebele Beaded Apron For Married Women Africa

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Title Ndebele Beaded Apron For Married Women Africa
Type of Object Beaded Apron
Country of Origin South Africa
People Ndebele
Materials Cotton canvas fabric, glass beads.
Approximate Age early to mid 20th century
Height (in) 23
Width (in) 20
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.

Ndebele Beaded Apron For Married Women, OLD African

Additional Information: A superb and old piece, in very good condition. This beaded apron is a work from the Ndebele. This apron called MAPOTO was worn by a married woman. Mapoto is a symbol of motherwood. It means the wearer bears a child. In the past a mapoto apron could be worn daily. Today it is replaced by other cloths more modern and practical.

This is an old and traditional Mapoto apron distinguished by the strings of leather ending in beadwork in the bottom center and with a frame made out of goat-skin. The designs on the top and in the middle recall that of the painted facade of the Ndebele's houses.

The Ndebele of South Africa are superb beadworkers. Their beadworks are remarkable for their variety, their bright colors, and their intricate designs. Beadwork has became a cultural icon of the Ndebele. Beadwork as well as mural art are important aspects of the Ndebele and South Africans peoples. They have a social meaning and are part of important ceremonies and their decorative aspects bring color and outstanding ornaments to their environment. Beadworks are considered as signs of status, wealth, and beauty. These artistic activities are devoted to women. Also, women, especially, are the most active users of beadworks. Young girls as well as little children also wear beadworks. Men also use beaded jewelry, beaded lioncloth, and ceremonial accessories. In special events both men and women would wear garments made out of beads. A complete Ndebele woman's attire would include beaded or metal jewelry such as brass rings around their neck and legs, wonderful headdresses of different medium, and aprons like this, which are worn to "beautify" the wearers, to show their status and to provide respect and dignity to the wearers and emphasize the ritual side of each important event. Today, a few women still wear metal jewelry, but most now have gold plastic replicas with Velcro, worn on ceremonial occasions. Ndebele married women still wear beaded blankets like large shawls, and beadwork on their arms, ankles, and heads. They still wear aprons like this heavily beaded with glass beads and decorated with geometric designs similar to those used on the painted facade of their houses.

Recommended Reading:

For similar examples and much more information, see Courtney-Clarke's NDEBELE

Rhoda Levinsohn. Art and Craft of Southern Africa. Delta Books, 1984

I have examined this piece and agree with the description.

Niangi Batulukisi, Ph.D.