Acholi or Lango fringe apron

Acholi or Lango fringe apron
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
?Uganda ?Sudan , Sudan
?Northeastern Uganda [Southern Sudan?] [?Upper Nile]
Cultural Group:
?Lango ?Acholi
Date Made:
?By 1939
Animal Leather Skin , Plant Fibre Yarn , Grass Stem Plant , Iron Metal , Brass Metal ? , Aluminium Metal ? , Tin Metal? Copper Metal? Glass bead
Tooled , Perforated , Twisted , Stitched , Strung , Knotted Forged (Metal) Hammered Bent Incised
Diam across belt (as worn) = 245, belt W = 9.3, th = 2.7; apron L = 90, W = 85; beaded string tassels L = 285; glass beads L = 4, diam = 4; metal beads L = 50, W = 2; metal beaded panel L = 160, W = 10.5 mm [RTS 14/12/2004].
66.1 g
Other Owners:
Found unentered in 1942, with the original donor being uncertain; it may be Armine Charles Almroth Wright, based on the likely object provenance, in which case Wright was probably collector as well as donor; however note that Seligman also donated Acholi
Field Collector:
?Henry Balfour ?Armine Charles Almroth Wright
PRM Source:
?Henry Balfour ?Armine Charles Almroth Wright
Donated by ?1942
Collected Date:
?By 1939
Waist ornament made from a narrow strip of brown leather (Pantone black 7C), tooled on the outside face with a crosshatched design. At the centre of this is a separate strip, fastened at either end to the belt body with twisted plant fibre thread sewn through double perforations. This part is heavily coated with ochre or dirt. A series of twisted fibre threads have been sewn onto the central panel, and hang down from its underside to form a stringwork apron. Each strip has a reddish brown body coated with dark brown mud (Pantone black 4C). Decorative beadwork has been fastened to the front of the belt above this apron, and consists of four narrow twigs or grass stems, arranged in parallel horizontal rows, each of which has been strung with 3 long cylindrical beads with a spirally twisted body. The central bead in each case is made of brass or copper, and has begun to corrode; the beads flanking this are made of a white metal that is probably aluminium or tin. This whole decorative section has then been fastened together, and to the backing belt, using loops of twisted plant fibre string.

The other ends of the leather belt have been perforated, and a short length of iron chain made from 4 links, with a short strip of leather let into the other side and fastened to the main belt body using a length of twisted plant fibre string. This chain and leather piece occur on the side of the belt, not the back. 3 strings of beads have been attached to the chain, to hang down over the hip. Each has 2 iron links at the top, with a length of twisted plant fibre string tied on, threaded with several coloured glass beads and knotted at the base. These have a symmetrical design, with almost identical numbers of beads in the same colour groupings; one typical string has 1 dark blue (Pantone 2747C), 21 red (Pantone 179C), 1 turquoise (Pantone 7459C), 22 green (Pantone 346C), 1 red, 11 dark blue, 1 red, 13 turquoise, 1 green and 1 red bead in place. Variations include the replacement of a dark blue bead with a black bead of similar form, and the centre string, which is lacking the final red bead at its base, although a gap in the string at this point suggests the bead may have been there originally and later lost. Each bead is of a similar cylindrical form, and the same colour throughout. Some beads are clearly more worn than others. The object is nearly complete; one fibre string piece has become detached and is loose in the bag, and there is a crease in the belt body that may fray further. It has a weight of 66.1 grams. The belt body has a diameter of 245 mm, and is 9.3 mm wide and 2.7 mm thick. The stringwork apron is 90 mm long and 85 mm wide; the beaded strings are 285 mm long, and the glass beads themselves are typically 4 mm long and 4 mm in diameter. The metal beads at the front are 50 mm long and 2 mm wide, and this decorative panel has a total length of 160 mm and width of 10.5 mm.

This object was found in the Museum collections in 1942, having not yet been accessioned. The original donor of the object is not certain, although it was tentatively assigned to Armine Charles Almroth Wright at the time, based on the object's style and likely provenance, in which case Wright was probably collector as well as donor. This is not the only possibility however, as both Lango and Acholi material had been brought into the museum from other collectors prior to 1942, including Charles Gabriel Seligman, Jack Herbert Driberg and Samuel P. Powell.

Similar stringwork aprons are worn by the Lango (1925.14.6), Acholi (1942.1.445?), Kakwa and Madi (M. Trowell & K.P. Wachsmann, 1953, The Tribal Crafts of Uganda, 186-189). This lacks the stiff 'tail' of leather common on the Lango versions, but is similar to an Acholi version of the type worn by 'matrons' (Trowell and Wachsmann 1953, pl. 44 fig. B.2). See also Boccassino fig. 54 - an Acholi stringwork apron with beaded side tassels, and the same kind of beaded panel on the front (R. Boccassino 1064, "Contributo allo studio dell’ ergologia delle popolazioni Nilotiche e Nilo-camitche. Parte quarta. Il vestito, il tatuaggio, le deformazioni del corpo, gli ornamenti e la circoncisione", Annali Lateranensi XXVIII ).
Similar beads in the same shade of green are seen on more recent objects from the Toposa and Larim (1979.20.154 and 1979.20.206.

Rachael Sparks 14/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [XI, p. 75] - The late H. BALFOUR, Esq. F.R.S. Specimens from different parts of AFRICA found unlabelled. As it is impossible to identify the real donor, or donors, it is assumed for convenience in using the Donor's Index that the specimens are given by Mr Balfour. Mostly without indication of provenance. [p. 87] 1942.1.446 - Belt of strong leather thong with fringe of black threads, same as that of [1942.1.]445 but smaller, [insert] suspended [end insert] in front; to the front part of the thong are tied bars of very small white-metal and brass beads threaded on grass stalks; the two ends of the thong connected with an [p. 89] iron chain, on which are suspended three streamers of coloured beads threaded on strings of plaited grass. No provenance given. Probably same locality as 445 ["Probably UPPER NILE (S.SUDAN or N.E. UGANDA)"].

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 29/1/2004].

Related Documents File - It is possible the donor has been incorrectly identified as Henry Balfour. In the Related Documents File is a list detailing: "Donors, or probable donors, of material entered under Mr. Balfour's name. 1942.1.44-451, Belts etc. ?A. C. A. Wright" [MR 2/5/2000].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Belt with fringe of fibre threads and streamers of beads [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 9/11/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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