Girl's apron

Turkana people, Kenya

Collected and donated by Cecil J.J.T. Barton in 1928; 1928.22.9Collected and donated by Cecil J.J.T. Barton in 1928; 1928.22.9This goat-skin apron is trimmed with ostrich-eggshell beads, trade beads, cowrie-shells and two iron rings. Collected in the early 20th century, it once belonged to a Turkana warrior who apparently wore it across his chest in the manner of a medieval gage or favour. According to the collector's observations, a local girl would challenge her suitor to prove himself a man and hands him her apron. He wears it until he kills a man, a lion, elephant or buffalo, and he can add an iron ring in token of his prowess. In this instance, the two iron rings record the slaying of two men.

Although there are instances of gift exchange between betrothed Turkana couples, and an expectation of a 'bride-wealth' payment to the bride's father, there is little evidence that aprons were routinely given to suitors as gages.

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