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Cotton dress with elaborate embroidery (asherah nahuak)

 

Width: 184.000 cm

AOA 1991.Af11.1

Africa, Oceania, Americas

    Cotton dress with elaborate embroidery (asherah nahuak)

    Berber peoples, late 20th century AD
    From Siwa Oasis, Egypt

    The 'white dress'

    Marriage celebrations create a specific need for particular items of clothing and other textiles, whether newly made, inherited or borrowed by the family of the bride or groom. In North African society a man is expected to provide material support for his wife and children. Gifts of clothing supplied before the marriage either as part of the dowry or as presents demonstrate his commitment to his new role as husband and father.

    Marriage ceremonies in North Africa follow similar patterns. The main focus is the 'night of entering' (lailat al-dukhla) when the marriage is consummated and the transition from adolescence to adulthood is recognized. A few days before the wedding day the contributions from both families - clothing, jewellery and furniture - are displayed and paraded through the village or neighbourhood accompanied by musicians hired by the bride's family.

    The 'white dress', asherah nahuak, is worn by the bride on the third day of the wedding celebrations, when she receives her parents and family for the first time in her new home. The silk thread decoration is said to represent the colours of ripening dates. Throughout North Africa dates are offered at wedding receptions to ensure fertility of the bride and groom. In Siwa, dates are a major cash crop and thus signify economic stability and wealth. The colours of the thread, red, yellow and orange may also be associated with the sun, as Siwa has a well-documented link with the ancient Egyptian sun god, Amun-Re.

    C.J. Spring and J. Hudson, North African textiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

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