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Turkana Maiden’s Obolio (Necklace)

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Turkana Maiden’s Obolio (Necklace)

Late 19th century - Mid 20th century
Beaded animal hide with glass beads and fiber threads

23 x 10.25 x 1/2 in. (58.42 x 26.035 x 1.27 cm)
Gift of Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 99.5.38
Other Number(s): 84-38 (Neufeld Collection Number)
Geography: Africa, Kenya
Classification: Clothing and Adornments; Adornments
Culture/Nationality: Turkana, Kenyan, East African, African
Collection: Neufeld Collection
The ngakoromwa ngibolio, which can be translated as "beads with patterns," is a type of necklace worn exclusively by marriageable young Turkana women. The Turkana are a pastoralist ethnic group, who greatly emphasize body adornment. A famous Turkana saying states: “It’s the things that a woman wears that make her beautiful.”

As social status markers, the necklace’s decorations indicate a young women’s availability and are worn with allure and pride. Composed of animal hide and glass beads, the large panels of this multi-layered necklace were designed to be displayed on the wearer’s back. The three dominant colors – black, red, and white – may symbolize earth and wealth, blood and life force, and purity and innocence respectively.

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