Student Interpretation → Alice Mayeron
Kirdi Peoples Beadwork
Art and life are inseparable in Africa.Beads, a staple in African artwork, have been profuse in African art and textiles since Portuguese, Dutch, and English sailors first came to trade on Africa's coast in the 1500's. Initially rare and reserved for leaders and the elite, an accumulation of beads, both worn on the body and as decorative accent, was a visual translation of the wealth and prosperity of a village. Information about every facet of African life and adornment can be conveyed: beads indicate wealth, social status, a person's role within their community, and artistic taste. Color, pattern, and context all dictate how the bead is used, worn, and read.
The three aprons, or cache sexes, which translates "to hide the sex," were made by the Kirdi people of Northern Cameroon. The term Kirdi means "pagan" and has an interesting history. Often times the only garment worn, these aprons were a symbol of womanhood and were meant to protect a woman's sex organs, which, it is believed, are particularly vulnerable to the intrusion of evil spirits. Variations in design, color, and pattern show the diversity of artistic interpretation and specific color combinations are representative of the spirit world. The aprons displayed here demonstrate symmetry and balance, a common trait in art from many African countries. The cowry shell, seen on all three aprons, was once used as currency and connotes ideas of wealth and fertility. Used as fringe on the belts, they add an element of sound when put in motion. When worn, the vivid, powerful, and energetic designs come to life.
Kirdi people, Cameroon
Glass seed beads; fiber
7 ½ x 19 ½ in. (19.1 x 49.5 cm)
Rectangular panel of woven glass beads; braided belt (fiber); beaded fringe; motifs are three rabbits, two trees, and leaves.