Bari piece apron

Bari piece apron
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] [Al Istiwa'iyah] [Equatoria] Bahr el Jebel
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1940
Goat Skin Animal , Goat Hair Animal , Animal Hide Skin , Glass , Bead , Ochre , Pigment
Beadwork , Twisted , Strung , Knotted , Stitched
W across top = 923, L down body = 540, w ties = 15, th ties = < 1 mm; bead edging (upper) W = 7, (sides and base) W = 15 mm. Small beads at top L= 1.5, diam = 2; large beads at sides, L = 4, diam. = 3.8 mm [RTS 9/3/2005].
365.0 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Samuel P. Powell
Field Collector:
Samuel P. Powell
PRM Source:
Samuel P. Powell
Loaned July 1940
Collected Date:
By 1940
Goatskin garment, probably worn as a back apron, consisting of a single piece of supple hide cut to form a broad body with convex sides that curve down and into a convex lower edge. The upper edge is irregular, with a narrow tongue of skin at the centre representing part of the goat's tail, with some orange hair left on the surface (Pantone 7510C), flanked by 2 triangular flaps of skin on either side. However this whole edge has been doubled over and creased, so that the flaps and tail hang down the front of the apron. It is not entirely clear which way round this garment was worn, as the folded area would work on both faces. However, assuming that the tail hair was meant to be visible, the outer surface would be the brown face (Pantone 469C), while the inner surface is the one given a regular coating of red ochre (Pantone 477C). This coating is thickly applied and unlikely to be an accidental result of contact with body paint. The upper corners of the apron extend to form 2 narrow rectangular strips of skin that could be used to fasten it in place around the waist. All the edges of the apron have been decorated with bands of beadwork, arranged in a rather symmetrical fashion with the occasional odd placement of colour. The upper, folded edge has 3 horizontal rows of beads. These consist of blocks of opaque white, opaque and occasionally translucent red (Pantone 1979C and 1807C) and black glass ring-shaped beads (Pantone black 6C) - mostly with groups of 3 to 11 white or red beads alternating with one another. Most are the same colour throughout their bodies, but some of the red beads are of the type that have an opaque white core. There are also 4 translucent purplish blue beads mixed in amongst the white at one point (Pantone 2707C). A typical bead in this group has a diameter of 2 mm and is 1.5 mm long. The only part of this upper edge that is not beaded is the tip of the central tail section; this part is framed by only white beads on its two side edges.

The sides of the apron have been decorated with larger opaque and slightly glossy cylindrical glass beads in white, green (Pantone 346C), dark blue (Pantone 2757C), black (Pantone black 6C) and a light red colour (Pantone 173C). These are arranged in 4 rows around the edge, also in alternating blocks of colour - primarily white with green, then white and black down one side of the apron, and white, red and black up the other side. Towards the top of the other side the pattern varies slightly, with an outside row of white beads forming a continuous line framing the alternating blocks. The actual number of beads in each coloured block varies, and there are some substitute beads introduced - dark blue for black, translucent for opaque white and so on. These beads are of similar sizes; a typical example is 4 mm long and 3.8 mm in diameter. All the beads have been sewn in place using some kind of string, possibly hide, although the surface is heavily accreted making the material difficult to identify. This has been used to string columns of beads together - 4 at a time on the side borders, 3 at a time along the top edge - which were then stitched to the edge of the skin, the string passed back through the column and then across to the adjacent set, creating a continuous thread that weaves its way in and out of the groups. This method creates a neat row of twisted stitches that runs along the outer edge of the beading.

The apron is complete, but has creases across the body where it has been folded; the only other damage is a row of four holes that runs below the upper edge on one side; these may have been originally used to attach further decorative elements, as seen on 1940.7.013 that are now missing. The apron has a weight of 365 grams, and measures 923 across the top, including the length of the ties, and is 540 mm long (with the upper edging folded over). The ties are 15 mm wide near their ends and the hide is less than 1 mm thick. The bead edging along the upper edge is 7 mm wide, while the edging along the sides is 15 mm wide.
The beads were not counted, but there must be well over 1000 involved in the construction of this object.

This object was collected by Samuel P. Powell somewhere in the modern administrative district of Bahr el Jebel, and loaned to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1940.

This type of garment was worn by women; Powell gives it the name
bongor. It is not clear whether this is a Bari term, as he also uses the same word for clothing worn by the 'Banana tribe' (1940.7.0222) and the Acholi (1940.7.096). Although Museum records describe this object as 'a shirt', it has a shape that is typical of back aprons - see, for example, 1934.8.44, also from the Bari, which uses a similar method of attaching the beaded edging, and 1940.7.013, which uses some of the same types of beads and has a very similar form. It may be that the term 'shirt', which appears on an early list in the Related Documents File, was a typing error for 'skirt'.

Rachael Sparks 14/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [Loans II, p. 308] - ESTATE OF S.P. POWELL, C/O N.H. HASLAM, Esq. Manager, Westminster Bank, Stony Stratford, Bucks. Collected by himself. Data from his labels and notes. From the BARI TRIBE, EQUATORIAL PROVINCE, ANGLO-EGYPTIAN SUDAN. 1940.7.012 - beaded goatskin shirt ( bongor ) dyed with red ochre.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 10/2/2004].

Related Documents File - Appears on undated typed list: "Bari Collection from the Equatorial Province, Sudan ... The Bongor, a beaded goat skin shirt usually dyed with red ochre". List is annotated by hand on back: "List of Curios" and "Far from complete" [RTS 16/12/2003].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - Woman's garment (bongor) goatskin dyed with red ochre. BARI. S.P. Powell [brown luggage label, tied to object; RTS 9/3/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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