Student Interpretation → Ashelee Forbes

  • Childs Arpon

Herrer and Hemba Peoples Beadwork

These three pieces of beadwork come from the Herero, a people residing primarily in Namibia, but spread throughout southern Africa. All three utilize animal skin, a central material for the Herero who are cattle herders, and utilize beads of different origins. The metal beads on the ekori child's apron are handmade, crafted from pieces of scrap iron. The glass and plastic beads on the fiber headdress and child's apron are of foreign origin, obtained through trade with Europeans. The ekori is a married woman's headdress, once meant to be worn on a daily basis, but now only worn on special occasions. Its horns and long ear flaps are meant to reference the cattle that would have been paid to the groom as dowry when a Herero woman married.

Child's Apron

Child's Apron

Herrero People
Namibia
Child's Apron
20th Century
Leather, metal beads
Gift of Norma Canelas Roth and William D. Roth
2006.45.1

The hunter-gatherers, known generically as San peoples have endured for millennia in South Africa and Namibia, although their existence is now threatened. They continue to produce ostrich egg-shell beads that resemble the oldest known beads on the continent, but in the last century have also used imported glass beads. Early San beadwork had minimal patterning, but more recent beadwork has become increasingly complex, utilizing a number of geometric motifs. Some suggested interpretations of motifs are that they are abstractions or mappings of the environment, such as animal tracks or human dwellings, to shamanistic visions. The spiral motif on this bag is called “owl.”

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