Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB


Living along the Okavango River that passes through northern Namibia, the Mbukushu are part of a larger Kavango group, among whom elaborate hairstyles were traditionally worn. For adult Mbukushu women, a paste of grass, finely crushed wood, and fat was rubbed into the hair, creating a distinctive matted appearance and enabling the attachment of a thick sisal braid to the top of the head and the addition of sisal hair extensions to create long hanging plaits. Beads, buttons, and shells enhanced the coiffure. Wigs such as this one, in which the fiber is attached to a leather base, allow women to present themselves on special occasions wearing the traditional hairdo while avoiding the time-consuming process the creation of the original involved.

Mbukushu peoples, Namibia
ca. 1900
Fiber, beads, leather
H. 21 in. (53.3 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Museum purchase with funds from the Class of 1949 Endowed Curatorship for the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, 2009.70