African Art and Costume



Zulu Married Woman’s Traditional Ceremonial Regalia, Central Natal Plains

Axis Gallery, New York
October 19, 2004 – December 18, 2004

This exhibition features mid-20th-century costumes from the Zulu, Xhosa, and Ndebele peoples of South Africa, noted for their spectacular beadwork outfits. 

Among South African peoples, beadwork was not merely a matter of dress. It had vital religious and ceremonial roles, replacing the masquerade traditions common to other African peoples. It also provided an index of identity. Regional color preferences indicated origin, much like the patterns of Scottish quilts, and the types and forms of costume elements connoted such other specifics as marital status and age group. 

The rear gallery features a Okoroshi applique costume from eastern Nigeria, complete with a mask, together with photographs by Phyllis Galembo, who recently recorded costumes and masquerades in this region. A selection of African sculpture is also on display. 

Van Wyk, Gary. “Illuminated signs: style and meaning in the beadwork of the Xhosa-and Zulu-speaking peoples.” African Arts 36, no. 3 (2003): 12-37.
Axis Gallery exhibition, “Dance In Light: Xhosa Textiles & Beadwork.” December 12, 2001 – January 26, 2002
Axis Gallery exhibition, “Zulu.” May 8 – June 30, 2001