Cameroon; Bana Guili peoples (Kirdi)

Woman's beaded apron

, Mid-20th century
Beads, cotton fiber, shells, 23 1/4 in.
Museum of African Art Collection Fund with support from J. Randolf Lewis, MD, and Linda Lewis, 2003.23

Little scholarship exists on these beaded garments. Bana Guili women wear dibul kouana, or beaded pubic-coverings during initiation, wedding celebrations, and other important ceremonies. Donna Page refers to women’s beaded garments of northwest Cameroon as pikuran. They are worn for protection against harmful spirits, and to display various stages of personal identity and social ties. 

When Cameroon gained political independence in 1961, the government banned women’s public display of beaded aprons throughout the country. They continue to wear them, however, in remote areas less subject to government intervention.  Since the 1980s, beaded aprons have shifted in design and scale. Recent examples are larger, include representational motifs, and patterns appear less improvised.


Suggested Reading

Fisher, Angela. Africa Adorned. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984.

Lembezat, Bertrand. Mémoires de l’Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (Centre du Cameroun)Series: Populations, no. 2. Kirdi, les populations païennes du Nord-Cameroun (Douala: l’Institute Francais d’Afrique Noire (IFAN), 1950.

Moraga, Vanessa Drake. “Their Own Fantastic Universe: Ceremonial Cache-Sexe of the Bana Guili Kirdi.” Hali 162 (Winter 2009): 74-76.

Page, Donna.  Cameroon World: Art and Artifacts from the Marshall and Caroline Mount Collection. New York: QCC Art Gallery, The City University of New York, 2007.