Anuak piece apron

Anuak piece apron
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Anywaa [Anuak]
Date Made:
By 1936
Cotton Textile Plant , Cotton Yarn Plant? , Animal Hide Skin , Glass , Cowrie Shell , Bead
Woven , Decorated , Beadwork , Stitched
L = 556, W = 285; ties L = 170 and 145, W = 13 mm; glass ring beads diam = 2.5, th = 1.5; cowries L = 12 to 23; flat blue bead diam = 8.5; short cylindrical beads diam = 4, L = 4 mm [RTS 22/2/2005].
159.9 g
Local Name:
abi.ti abi ti
Other Owners:
Presumably collected by Evans-Pritchard during his period of fieldwork amongst the Anuak between early March and May 1935 [RTS 18/6/2004].
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Donated 1936
Collected Date:
March - May 1935
Girl's apron made from a rectangular piece of brown cotton cloth (Pantone 7504C), consisting of a simple check weave pattern of over 1, under 1. The cloth was laid out lengthways, and the top edge folded over the upper surface and stitched down to form a hem, roughly 32 mm wide at one end and narrowing to a width of 18 mm at the other. The lower edge was also folded over the front, to about halfway up the body, and stitched in place, leaving a lower hem of 125 mm at one end, and 160 mm wide at the other. This resulted in a narrow strip of cloth that was mostly of double thickness. The side edges were also given narrow hems, but this time by folding the cloth over to the underside; one of these side hems was done before the longer top/bottom hems, the other afterwards. The stitching has been done using a twisted brown cotton yarn that is roughly the same colour as the backing cloth, in a simple running stitch. Two short narrow strips of hide have been sewn onto the front upper corners of the apron, to allow the wearer to fasten it in place around their waist; it would be tied at the side, to leave one thigh exposed.

The outer surface of the apron has been covered with beadwork, sewn in place using the same brown thread, and with the stitches visible on the inner face of the apron. This consists of a border, made up glass ring-shaped beads threaded onto cotton and sewn into place in groups of 4 beads at a time; very occasionally this drops to only 3 or 2 beads or rises to as many as 6. These tend to be arranged in rows of the same colour, but occasionally a bead of a different colour has been added to the sequence. The top edge thus has groups of light blue (Pantone 636C), white, green (Pantone 359C), yellow (Pantone 1205C), green, black with white stripes, and light blue: the right hand side has 3 groups of white alternating with 2 groups of blue; the lower edge has 2 groups of white alternating with 2 groups of blue, and the left-hand side has blue, pink (Pantone 182C), yellow and blue groups. White cowrie shells, their backs removed and their lips facing outwards, have been sewn onto key areas near this border - halfway down either side, in each lower corner, and at the centre of the baseline. There are also semicircular motifs made of double rows of beads in single colours, with 4 of these spaced irregularly along the baseline, one of which surrounds the central cowrie, as does another in the right corner. There is a fifth semicircle halfway up the right side edge, but this is adjacent to the cowrie shell, not surrounding it. There is a small group of 5 mauve (Pantone 2716C) and 1 blue (Pantone 2727C) short cylindrical beads sewn above the base line, on what would probably have been the apron front, arranged in 2 horizontal rows. A single light blue flat disc-shaped bead, pierced twice through its length, has been sewn to near the centre of the upper part of the apron. The rest of the surface of the apron has been more randomly decorated with a series of motifs made using the small ring beads. More attention has been paid to the right half of this field, where short X-shaped or Y-shaped groups of beads, in white, blue, pink and green, are scattered amongst 2 longer crosses made of translucent green beads (Pantone 364C), and in one case, a vertical double row of beads without a crossbar. A few black and white striped beads are mixed in with this group. On the left half of the field, which may have been worn at the back of the apron, groups of beaded crosses, and the simpler Y-shaped groups of similar size have been picked out in white, blue, pink and green.

The apron appears to be complete, but there are areas where pinprick sized holes are visible in the outer surface; these may have held beads that have since fallen off, or else which were added then removed when the object was being made. There are numerous surface stains, and the hide ties are in poor condition, with a couple of small fabric tears also present on the apron body and a chip missing from one cowrie shell. It has a weight of 159.9 grams, and is 556 mm long and 285 mm wide; the ties are 170 and 145 mm long respectively and 13 mm wide; the small ring beads have a typical diameter of 2.5 mm and thickness of 1.5 mm; the cowrie shells range from 12 to 23 mm in length; the blue double pierced bead has a diameter of 8.5 mm, while the short cylindrical beads have a diameter of 4 mm and are 4 mm long.

Collected by E.E. Evans-Pritchard during his fieldwork amongst the Anuak, which took place between early March and May 1935 (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1940, The Political System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, p. 3).

This type of apron was worn by girls, and is known as
abi ti. A ustin noted that older Anuak women at beginning of the twentieth century: “... wear skins round their loins, often daintily picked out with beads" (H.H. Austin, 1902, Among Swamps and Giants in Equatorial Africa, p. 18); this may be a related practice.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 410] - 1936 [insert] 10 [end insert] E. EVANS-PRITCHARD, M.A., Exeter College, Oxford. - Specimens collected by himself in the EASTERN SUDAN, while travelling with a Grant from the Rockefeller Leverhulme Trustees, viz: [p. 414] [insert] 62 [end insert] - Abi.ti , girl’s loin-cloth of cotton-cloth decorated with beads and cowries. ANUAK.
Additional Accession Book Entry [p. 413] - 1936.10.62 number allocated.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 30/1/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - Abi-ti , girl's loin cloth, it leaves one thigh exposed. ANUAK, E. SUDAN. d.d. E. Evans-Pritchard, 1936 [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 22/2/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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