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African art and costume


Axis Gallery
453 West 17th Street, 212-741-2582
October 19 - December 18, 2004
Web Site

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.
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