Acholi belt

Acholi belt
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
?Uganda , ?Sudan
?[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
?Acholi European
Date Made:
By 1940
Animal Leather Skin , Iron Metal , Glass , Plant Fibre
Beadwork , Perforated , Stitched , Forged (Metal) , Gilded
L = 903, W belt = 35 mm, th belt = 2 mm, L holes = 4 mm; buckle L = 47 mm, W = 43.2 mm, th = 1.8 mm; bead diam = 2 mm, bead th = 1 mm. When fastened, the external diameter varies from 228 to 265 mm [RTS 2/8/2004].
140.3 g
Other Owners:
Samuel P. Powell
Field Collector:
Samuel P. Powell
PRM Source:
Samuel P. Powell
Loaned July 1940
Collected Date:
By 1940
Belt of European manufacture that has been decorated with local beadwork. This consists of a brown leather body (Pantone 4625C), cut into a rectangular strip that tapers to a point at one end, and is straight at the other. The latter has been doubled over to form a loop through which an iron buckle has been fitted, with the flap secured by passing two iron split pins through the body; these have slightly convex heads, which are visible from the front of the belt; on the back, their double shafts divide and splay out on either side of the holes to fix the pins in place. The buckle, also European and probably an original part of the belt, is made of iron which has traces of gilding over the surface. This has a single bar running across the centre, which the belt end has been looped around; the tongue of the belt, made from a separate iron rod fitting onto this bar, protrudes through a slit cut in the centre of the fold. The body of the buckle is nearly rectangular, with long, scalloped sides. The belt body has impressed tooled decoration consisting of two parallel lines running as a decorative border along the outside edges of the outer face; these lines may be missing or worn away at the top of the folded end, but are otherwise present throughout. Five ovoid holes have been punched through the leather body through which the buckle tongue could pass to fasten the belt around the waist. At its widest setting, the belt has a diameter of 265 mm; at its most narrow setting, this is reduced to 228 mm. Note that the decorative beadwork does not obscure any of the fastening holes, suggesting that the belt continued to serve its original function.

In addition to these features, which are part of the design of the original, imported European object, the belt has undergone local modification, consisting of some additional holes through the body and the attachment of decorative beadwork. The holes are smaller than the original perforations, and lentoid in shape. These have been added in what appears to be an irregular and widely spaced pattern running along the top and bottom edges of the belt body, and may have been used to attach further ornaments to the belt, now missing.

The decorative beadwork is made of a series of small opaque and translucent ring beads, all of similar sizes, arranged in regular patterns across the surface and sewn onto the leather belt using thin twisted plant fibre thread. The design consists of two rows of beads along the two long edges of the belt. These are arranged in symmetrical blocks of colour, each made from between 31 to 34 beads, framed at either end by a group of two white beads with a third bead, usually of the original colour, sandwiched between. The rows on opposite sides of the belt mirror one another. From the buckle end downwards, these consist of blocks of opaque white, green (Pantone 360C), translucent red (Pantone 1807C), opaque yellow (Pantone 108C), white, cobalt blue (Pantone 281C), white, translucent red, opaque green, yellow, white, cobalt blue, white, translucent red and opaque green. Three short parallel rows of beads run as a framing motif at the buckle end of the object, consisting of two white rows with a row of yellow beads between, each row framed by single cobalt blue beads on one side and single red beads on the other. The centre of the belt has been decorated with four groups made of double wavy lines, made of similar blocks of colour framed by triple bead groups at the end of each block; these repeat the colours used along the belt edges, but add one section of sky blue beads (Pantone 2985C). There are gaps between each wavy line; three of these have 3 curves each; the fourth line has five curves. The curves tend to become more angular where they run against the beaded edges of the belt. There is room in the design for an additional wavy line with three curves, but there is no sign of sewing holes through the leather to suggest that this was ever added - this corresponds with the perforated belt end where the buckle would be fastened, and the omission may have been done deliberately to allow the belt to be fastened more easily. The spaces left above and below each curve of these lines has been filled with a beaded semi circular motif, made with a frame of white beads running around the edges and in a straight line down the centre, with the two parts thus created each filled with a solid colour in red, green, yellow and cobalt blue. Two semi circles vary this design slightly by having outer curved edges of alternating white and cobalt blue or red; one also has an internal divider of alternating white and red beads. The gaps between the ends of the wavy lines are filled with circular beaded motifs - similarly framed with a row of white beads, and divided internally by white beads into between four and six wedge-shaped segments, each filled with contrasting colours. In one case, two segments are filled with white, and the corresponding outer border of the circle at those points is made from cobalt blue beads. At the very centre of the belt there is a group of two of these segmented circles with a semi circular motif between. Not all segments are of equal size. Most circles have solid centres, but two have been sewn directly around the belt perforations used for fastening the buckle through, and have been left with holes at their centres to allow this to be done.

The belt is nearly complete, with the exception of two areas of the bead edging where some beads have been lost - this was probably caused by rubbing of the belt body against the buckle, which fastens through this part of the belt. It has a weight of 140.3 grams, and is 903 mm long, 35 mm wide and 2 mm thick, with the belt holes having lengths of 4 mm. The buckle is 47 mm long, 43.2 mm wide and 1.8 mm thick. The beads have diameters of 2 mm and are 1 mm thick; the decorative beaded circles have diameters of between 26 and 30 mm.

Collected by Samuel P. Powell before 1940 and loaned to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Museum records do not indicate the place or cultural group that the belt came from, but it has been tentatively assigned to the Acholi on the basis of its style and the fact that it arrived, packed together with an Acholi object.

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. [p. 322] - The following objects were not labelled & there was no list. Some identifications suggested by similarity to objects labelled [insert] or others already in P[itt].R[ivers Museum] [end insert], these are given with ? [p. 326] 1940.7.0278 - Belt of European make, decorated with ?ACHOLI beadwork (Packed with ACHOLI amulet, no notes)
Additional Accession Book Entry [page opposite 325] - All unlabelled specimens in S[AMUEL].P. POWELL coll. not otherwise identified have been placed in the Regional Index under AFRICA, pending further work on them.

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

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - European belt with ACHOLI (?) beadwork (Packed with Acholi amulet - no notes). S.P. Powell 1940.7.0278 [brown luggage label, tied to object RTS 2/8/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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