Ceremonial skirt (lawo butu)

Ngadha peoples (also spelled Ngada)
19th or early 20th century
more object details

General Description

The textile ground for this exceptional ceremonial skirt consists of abstract patterns enclosed in narrow bands. The designs were ikat-dyed, a process in which the yarns are resist-dyed before weaving. Tied to the textile are beaded circular and diamond shapes with strings of beads and shells trailing them. Also present are five human figures whose arms and legs are similarly delineated by strings of beads and shells terminating in Nautilus-shell chips. Explanations of the designs are mostly speculative, but glass beads are widely associated with fertility, prosperity, and abundance. The human figures may represent ancestors; the ship may refer to trading vessels that transported the valuable beads used to decorate this skirt, as well as other precious cargo that generated the great wealth enjoyed by its owner. A woman of high social status would have woven this beaded skirt and worn it on the most important ceremonial occasions during the agricultural and human life cycle.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2016.