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An early 20th Century Iraqw beaded skirt. Northern Tanzania. Animal hide and glass beads.
Iraqw Marmo society ritual skirts are sewn with thousands of glass beads by female initiates for a period of seclusion lasting six months to a year. During this rite of passage girls undergo a symbolic death and rebirth. They are fed rich food, taught sexual manners, and educated in the highly secretive lore of the Marmo society which is closely guarded by Iraqw women. While the motifs embroidered on these skirts illustrate complex symbolic significance, their meanings are unknown to outsiders.
Ref: "Africa, The Art Of A Continent". Royal Acadamy Of Arts, London. 1996, pg 156
Commonwealth Institute, Bristol - Accession No: T/TANZ/134
Pitt Rivers Museum. Oxford - Accession No: 1940.7.0114