Pepetu (apron) - ROM2019_17315_1


Pepetu (apron)

Maker: Unidentified Ndebele artist
Medium:Beaded leather
Geography: South Africa
Date: early-late 20th century
35.5 × 44 cm
Object number: 2004.80.21
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 pepetu is a stiff rectangular beaded apron worn by unmarried women only after they have completed female initiation. The pepetu is often made by a girl’s mother and indicates a girl’s newly achieved womanhood and maturity. It also announces her availability for marriage.

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 pepetu reflects a transition towards less abstracted images of domestic settings. The houses depicted in this pepetu are more recognizable and are depicted frontally compared to earlier beadworks that often depict the homestead from an aerial perspective.

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