THE HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COSTUME
THE CLASSIC WORK OF THE 19TH CENTURY
19TH CENTURY ANTIQUE CIVILIZATIONS
SENEGAMBIA - THE GUINEA COAST - WEST AFRICA - ABYSSINIA -
THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENCES between the African tribes, differences that manifest themselves in varying styles of costume. The widest variations in costume, however, are those between the inhabitants of Senegambia and the Guinea Coast, on the West of Africa, the Abyssinians, to the East, and the Southern Africans.
1, 6, 8 & 14 M'Pongue women, from Gabon, wearing either a piece of cloth wrapped round their hips or draped, short pantaloons and belts. Their chests are bare, but decorated with strings of carefully chosen beads. They attach a moondah, or ornament, to these necklaces, the most popular motif being a tiger's claw.
3 A chief of the Yoloff tribe from Senegambia, wearing a blue robe of cotton - the standard material in this part of Africa. The material would almost certainly have come from India.
7 An Abyssinian, wearing a cotton military cloak that is held in place with a black panther skin. This is decorated with a large piece of red leather in the shape of a cross and partly edged with silver. He wears cotton leggings and a wide piece of cotton is wrapped round his body.
9 A chief of the nomadic Peul tribe, from Senegambia. The Peuls are famous for their jewellery: bits of glass, gold coins, red beads and large collars.
10 A Galla chief. These fierce tribesmen cover themselves only with a loincloth of leather or animal hide. Their hair, thickly buttered, is either worn loose or in plaits. The ivory bracelets are a count of enemies defeated.
11 A Berta from the Upper Nile. Famous warriors, the Bertas use iron-headed javelins, curved daggers (12) and short knives (13). The hood is made from the skin of a black monkey and topped with an ostrich feather.
15 A Basotho, from Southern Africa, wearing a short panther skin cloak fixed on the chest with a strap that is covered with a large bronze collar. His loincloth and greaves are made from antelope skin, and his headdress is of ostrich feathers - the mark of a brave warrior.
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20 A warrior from the Guinea coast. His cylindrical headdress is made from plaited rushes, red wool and shells.
21 A Bakalais witch doctor from Gabon. From childhood, future witch doctors must wear a special loincloth, fixed around the hips by a belt of white beads and decorated with a type of red chenille, and strings of large coloured beads round the neck and chest.
22 A Zulu chief from Natal. The strips of animal skin round his arms and legs show him to be a hunter and warrior, while the leopard skin on his chest marks him as a chief. His otter-skin headdress is decorated with large vulture feathers and his cloak is made of buffalo skin.
23 A Pahouin warrior from Gabon. Famous hunters, they can also work iron, making assegais (24) and axes (25). This warrior is wearing a loincloth made from the skin of a black monkey and carrying a bag decorated with a fringe made from a cocoa plant.
Prints of Costume by Racinet