Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Kirdi Apron Beaded Cache Sexe Pikuran Cameroon African Art JK Brown Collection

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Type of Object Cache Sexe, apron, and garment
Country of Origin Cameroon
People Kirdi
Materials Glass beads, cowrie shell, and cotton threads
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 9
Width (in) 18
Dimensions 36 inch string
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.
Damage/Repair Indigenous repair

Additional Information: Among some Cameroon groups, women simply wore pubic aprons also known as 'caches sexes’ in various writings (literally - ‘to hide the sex’) until approximately 1961, when governmental restrictions required women to be fully clothed. However the tradition continues in a number of ornate beaded forms worn today.

Living in the area of the Mandara mountains, Matakam women of northern Cameroon wore pubic aprons made of small iron strips covering the sex and held in place by a belt of fiber.

The Matakam are also known as 'Kirdi' or 'pagans', a name given to them by the Islamized Kanuri or Fulani who came into the area sometime during the 1600s. The Matakam or Kirdi live in small farming communities and are known for their arts of personal adornments, especially those made of iron including the 'cache sexes,' as well as necklaces, bracelets and other attachments worn on the belt supporting their 'aprons'. Composed of small iron strips the pubic aprons were worn by mature married women indicating their elevated status in Kirdi society. Beaded aprons have today replaced those of iron and are worn by women upon special occasions such as marriage or during the presentation of new born children. Geometric patterns found on the brightly colored beaded aprons reflect designs shared by a number of neighboring peoples. It is an example of how traditions are maintained in other forms and materials serving custom and aesthetic expression.

The nomadic Fulani of Cameroon and their neighbors, the Kirdi, both make these beaded aprons. Maidens wear beaded cache sexe, sometimes torn by their husbands as part of wedding night rituals.

Recommended Reading: See a similar example in CAMEROON-ART AND LIFE INTERWOVEN, BY JAROCKI.

From the collection of JK Brown

Kathie and Jerry Brown have been collecting trade beads for more than 50 years. They had a business selling them for many years, called “Thunder and Lightning.” According to Jerry, “Kathie was the lightning, and I was the thunder!”
Their collecting began in 1967 when they met a Peace Corps volunteer who was selling his collection to finance a school for African children - and the Browns bought it all. Over the years, they've amassed thousands of strands of Venetian and other European trade beads, as well as made-in-Africa beds and jewelry. They sold at Mountain Man rendezvous and other events. Africa Direct is very proud to be the new owners of this extraordinary collection.