Ndebele Beaded Child's Apron

c. 1950
$1,880 USD
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W: 11.75" D: 1.75" H: 9.5"
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A rare imported commodity, glass beads have been a symbol of wealth and authority in south African cultures for centuries, and were exclusively distributed by the region's oba (king). As beads become gradually more accessible throughout the 19th century, they began to displace the organic materials used in traditional art and attire. This exquisite example of African beadwork is a small apron known as lighabi, worn by children of the Ndebele peoples of South Africa and Zimbabwe. The lighabi would have been attached to the front of a skirt via the top band of stiff canvas, densely embroidered with geometric beadwork. A beaded fringe hangs below, designed to sway with each step and amplify the lively movements of the child who once wore this exquisite piece.

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