Among the many diverse ethnic groups in South Africa, the Xhosa peoples have an especially rich tradition of Umbaco skirts. This elegant textile skirt, also known as an isikhakha or imibhaco, can be worn with a beaded belt attached to which are two beaded tassels that extend to the ground. The umbaco skirt features parallel rows of black strips that follow the curve of the hem and are bordered by rows of delicate white and dark blue beads and narrow black strips. Between the rows are delicate, beaded appliqué designs alternating with buttons. The combination of elaborate beadwork with vividly hued textiles and other materials like buttons and tassels yields both a rich, tactile surface and a beautiful aesthetic effect.

Some beadwork and clothing, such as the long dress, beaded bags, and lacy-looking collars worn by some Xhosa-speaking peoples, were influenced be white settlers. It was the artists themselves, however, who invented most conventional designs, patterns, and techniques used in beadwork. Every beaded work expresses the creativity, careful planning, and expert execution of the person who made it.


Umbhaco Skirts 2021

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