“Adornments” features shoes, hats, jewelry, belts, sashes, scarves and other items of personal adornment from our collection.
Maasai NecklaceSo we welcome the new with a beaded necklace from the Maasai of East Africa. This flat collar necklace would be worn by a Maasai woman who was either married or soon to be married. There are about 40 different types of Maasai beadwork, all designed by women. Traditionally, a mother would craft a necklace like this one for her daughter. The design is meant to accentuate a woman’s grace and beauty. Even the different colors have special meaning. Blue symbolizes God, as it is the color of the sky. Green beads stand for vegetation after rainfall, an important symbol of peace in Maasai culture. Come enjoy this and other beautiful examples of adornment this summer at Mariposa!
Silk ShoesWhile these shoes look like they were made to fit a child, they would have belonged to an adult woman whose feet had been broken and bound. Foot binding was a painful tradition in China that began during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) and did not end entirely until the 1950s. Tiny “moon shaped” feet became an ideal of beauty in China and also symbolized elite social status since bound feet became a sign of women who were not required to do manual labor. However, the painful foot binding process caused infections and completely disabled many women. Still, women chose to bind their own feet, fearing that if they did not, they would not be able to marry into a good family.
CradleboardsCradleboards are used by many of the native peoples of the Americas. This intricately beaded example comes from the Iroquois nation. The Iroquois are actually an association made up of 6 distinct tribes. Initially covering a vast area west of the Hudson River and into the Finger Lakes region, the Iroquois now live primarily in upstate New York and Canada.
An Iroquois mother would use a cradleboard like this one to keep her baby safe and comfortable. The sturdy, straight frame of the cradleboard was said to ensure that the baby’s back would grow straight and strong. Mothers would wrap their infants in warm, soft layers of blankets, and then cushion them with soft mosses. Cradleboards are also very portable and could be worn on a mother’s back while she worked.
Buckskin DressA buckskin dress like this one would be worn by a young woman during the Sunrise Ceremony, a coming of age tradition among the Apache people of the southwestern United States. This particular example comes from the White Mountain Apache of Arizona. The term “Apache” actually encompasses several distinct tribes in this geographical area who speak variations of the Athabascan language.
The ritual of the Sunrise Ceremony varies from group to group, but there are many similarities between traditions. The Sunrise Ceremony recreates the Apache creation myth and connects each generation of women with White Painted Woman, the first mother. Family and community members come together to celebrate a young woman’s entrance into womanhood, and participate in prayers and dances for several nights. The young woman also practices her endurance by running to each of the cardinal directions, representing strength in each of the four stages of life. It is said that when she runs east toward the sun, she meets White Painted Woman, who merges with the young woman and is continually reborn in each generation of Apache women.