Bari piece apron

Bari piece apron
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Bahr el Jebel
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1940
Goat Skin Animal , Goat Hair Animal Animal Hide Skin , Glass , Iron Metal , Brass Metal , Bead , String Plant Fibre?
Beadwork , Twisted , Strung , Knotted , Stitched
W across top with ties = 983, L = 467; ties W = 10, th = < 1; beaded edging W = 10; glass beads diam = 4, L = 4; iron ring beads diam = 6.3, L = 4; brass bead diam = 7, L = 4.5 mm [RTS 9/3/2005].
232.5 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 slightly concave top edge and convex sides that curve down and in to a convex lower edge. A narrow tapering triangular tongue of skin has been left at the centre of the top edge; this was the tail of the animal and has been left with patches of long buff coloured hair over the outer surface (Pantone 7401C). Both tail and upper edge have been folded over, forming a narrow band that runs along the top of the apron. This tapers at either side to form 2 long rectangular ties that were used to fasten the apron in place, partially compressed through usage. The outer face of the apron is undyed, and a pinkish brown hide (Pantone 728C), while the inner face has been partially coloured a reddish brown (Pantone 4715C), perhaps through contact with body paint.

The waist has also been decorated by adding 3 hanging strings of beads to flank the central tail. On one side a narrow hide thong has been stitched through the folded section of skin, to leave a long section hanging down the front of the apron. This was threaded with 47 iron disc-shaped beads, secured with a knot at the base. Each bead has been made from sheet iron, hammered into a loop with touching ends. On the other side, there is a similar string with 49 iron beads in place, and a second string threaded with 11 long brass cylindrical beads, made in a similar fashion, spaced with 2 cylindrical beads in iron, then a group of 32 iron disc beads. The apron was also given a beaded edging that runs along its sides and base, made up of pairs of short cylindrical glass beads in glossy opaque white, black (Pantone black 6C) and dark blue (Pantone 2757C). These are arranged primarily in bands of alternating colour, made up of groups of between 3 and 12 pairs of beads arranged in 2 rows. While these mostly alternate dark and light beads (black or blue groups next to white), some substitutions do occur, with blue and black sometimes mixed, and occasionally splitting the pairs to have a light row above a dark coloured row; in one place, there is only 1 bead in place of the usual pair; as there are no repairs or breaks at this point, this is probably an accidental error. There are a total of 735 beads in this border. The beads were attached using a twisted fibre string, sewn through the edge of the skin, passing through a pair of beads stacked one above the other, and then back again through the adjacent pair of beads to the skin edge. This results in an parallel rows of stitching along the top and base of each pair of beads, with the occasional knot.

There are 2 further beaded strings, knotted onto either side of the top of this bead edging. Both have been strung onto a twisted fibre cord, probably cotton yarn, made up of around 5 strands. One of these tassels has been threaded with a squat iron disc bead; 11 white cylindrical beads with 2 dark blue and 1 black cylindrical beads mixed in, of the same type used in the edging beadwork, an iron cylindrical bead, then 7 small white ring-shaped beads. The second string has been threaded with 6 white, 7 black and 1 dark blue cylindrical beads of the edging type. The apron is essentially complete, but has some small to medium sized holes across the body surface and the iron and brass beads have some surface corrosion; otherwise they are a typical metallic gray (Pantone 877C) and yellow colour (Pantone 871C). There is some discoloured patches on the inner face of the skin. The apron has a weight of 232.5 grams and measures 983 mm across the top, including the length of the ties, and is 467 mm long. The ties are 10 mm wide and less than 1 mm thick. The beaded edging is 8 mm wide; each of the glass cylindrical beads is typically 4 mm long and 4 mm in diameter; the iron ring beads have a diameter of 6.3 mm and are 4 mm long, while the brass beads vary in length; one example has a diameter of 7 mm and is 4.5 mm long.

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'.

Although this apron is described as 'undyed', the inner surface has been coloured, probably through contact with some form of body paint. The glass cylindrical beads used in its construction are of the type known on bead trade cards as 'pipe beads'. Similar beads are found on objects from numerous Southern Sudanese cultures, including the Anuak (1936.10.66) and northern Larim (1979.20.154). These types of iron beads are similarly found on objects associated with the Bari (1940.7.09), Acholi (1942.1.448) and Lango (1925.14.4-5).

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. 1940.7.013 - beaded goatskin shirt ( bongor ) undyed.

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 ... another [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 trimmed with beads (usually dyed with red ochre). BARI. S.P. Powell [brown rectangular luggage label, tied to object. Label is stained; back was originally used to describe a different object, then crossed out; RTS 9/3/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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