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Young Matron's Dress
Married Woman’s Dress
Late 19th-mid 20th Century
Wool, leather, glass beads, mother-of-pearl buttons, brass, rubber, ochre
Museum purchase, funds provided by the Caroline Julier and James G. Richardson Art Acquisition Fund
All the elements of this Mfengu woman’s dress and accoutrements signify her status, wealth, and connection to her family and ancestors. Her garments are saturated with ochre, a pigment that comes from the sacred land of her people. Accents of glass beads and mother-of-pearl shell buttons are both symbolic of her family obligations, and her wealth and matronly status. The beaded panel pins and necklaces, called “keepers of the heart” are gifts from her husband and reveal aspects of her personality and history. The long multi-colored beaded strands, acknowledge her devotion to her ancestors. Modern accoutrements, such as rubber anklets, made from gaskets and jar seals, were acquired by her husband when working in distant minefields.