Mapoto 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 Ndebele Beaded Hide Married Woman's Apron dates from the mid-20th century, is decorated with a row of brass rings, partially beaded with geometric and symbolic designs, with bead- wrapped fringe from the bottom.

Condition: some loose beadwork, some brass rings missing, oxidation, some small holes in the leather, obvious wear and use.

Measurements approximately: Height 53 cm / 20.9 inch without straps. Width 54 cm / 21.3 inch.