Mapoto (apron) - ROM2019_17315_25


Mapoto (apron)

Maker: Unidentified Ndebele artist
Medium:Beads, canvas, leather
Geography: South Africa
Date: early-late 20th century
51.5 × 38.7 cm
Object number: 2004.80.38
Credit Line: This acquisition was made possible by the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust.
Not on view

For the Ndebele peoples of South Africa, garments play the important role of indicating social status. When a girl achieves womanhood she wears an apron specific to her social position, marital status, and the event at hand.

A mapoto is a stiff rectangular beaded apron with a section of beaded fringes in the lower centre, separating two beaded rectangular panels, worn by married women.

The style and design of the aprons are based on aesthetic trends. These trends vary amongst different regions and change if the style is no longer fashionable. The oldest of Ndebele aprons from the 19th century into the early 20th century are mainly white with simple geometric patterns. Later aprons of the 20th century are more intricate and colourful, reflecting access to Western markets and Western cultural influences.

The design of this mapoto reflects the fashion of the late 1990s. The apron is made with stiff canvas and it is decorated with a simple design in what Natalie Knight and Susanne Priebatsch call the "party style". The style was introduced in the late 1970s by Operation Hunger as a more viable commercial production for Ndebele artists. The commercial success of this type of apron rendered the older, heavier examples unfashionable and less sought after.

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