Child apron, Ndebele, South Africa.

The Ndebele are one of the smallest tribes in South Africa, but are known worldwide for their geometric designs found on their painted houses and beadwork. The Ndebele women are some of the best known beadworkers in Africa, having worked with beads for hundreds of years. Like all south African tribes, the beadwork of the Ndebele is an immediate identifier of the age, sex and marital status of the wearer to anyone wo can read the "code". The Ndebele woman wears her social identity around her waist in the form of an intricately beaded apron, and there are several types.

This very fine fringed iGabe or "ghabi" apron is worn by young girls to puberty. It's made of a strip of beadwork on hide from which many hand twisted strings dangle to form a modesty screen. Each string is weighted with glass beads to make sure the iGabe does its job.

Condition: very good, some loose beadwork (see pictures), obvious wear and use.

Measurements approximately: Height 27 cm / 10.63 inch. Width 33 cm / 13 inch.