Yei Beaded Front-Apron
Country Of Origin
North-western Botswana, edges of the Okavango swamps
25.5 x 22 cms (10 x 8¾ ins)
Glass beads, leather
Beaded front aprons are part of an ensemble worn by women of the Yei tribe who live along the edges of the Okavango Swamp in Northern Botswana. These aprons are one part of a three part costume that consists of a beaded front-apron, a skin back-apron (often adorned with strands of beads), and a beaded back-belt worn on top of the skin back-apron. The colours favoured by the Yei are black and white with the occasional highlight of red beads, this piece does have a few blue beads interspersed among the black. The older pieces often have ostrich shell beads as well glass beads.
These distinctive beadwork panels have an almost op-art, modern aesthetic. They are rarer than the back aprons and belts. There is an interesting article in African Arts from 1977 discussing these beadwork costumes with the comment that at the time the research for the article was carried out no examples of the front aprons remained in those Yei villages. This particular example was collected by Peter Nelson who worked in the Peace Corps and was in Africa in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.