The shape of this rare beaded ceremonial skirt from the Iraqw culture of central-north Tanzania has been made from strips of sewn-together animal hide. This animal-hide canvas has been beautifully decorated with nine horseshoe-shaped beaded designs in white, red, blue and orange. Rather unusually, the skirt’s upper band - which would have adorned the wearer’s waist- features a series of smaller horseshoe-shaped decorations. The skirt isfurther embellished with little multi coloured clusters of beads and strands of beads which create hanging tassels.
The skirts were made by young girls as part of the Iraqw women’s initiation ritual known as Marmo. Through participation in Marmo, Iraqw girls transitioned from puberty into womanhood. Their beaded ceremonial skirts were a display of their skill and dexterity.
Iraqw skirts are amongst the most elaborately decorated beaded costumes from the African continent. Each skirt is unique, the design being a product of the skill and creativity of the individual maker.
Field collected in the 1990's
Estimated Period: Mid-20th Century