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Image of 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)

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
Description: 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.

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • African - Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • beads - Refers to small objects, of any shape or material, pierced so that they may be strung or hung or attached, as by sewing.
  • East African - Styles and cultures of the eastern area of Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, that together with the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia) make up Eastern Africa.
  • jewelry - Ornaments such as bracelets, necklaces, and rings, of precious or semiprecious materials worn or carried on the person for adornment; also includes similar articles worn or carried for devotional or mourning purposes.
  • Kenyan - Style and culture of Kenya.
  • necklaces - Ornaments worn around the neck, usually in the form of chains or strands of beads, pearls, stones, or decorative or precious materials, and often including a suspended ornamental pendant. Use "chokers" for short, narrow necklaces worn close to the throat. Use "dog collars (necklaces)" for wide ornamental bands worn tightly around the neck.
  • Turkana - The style and culture of an East African tribe living between Lake Rudolph and the Nile.

Additional Images Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image 99.5.38_BMC_f_2.jpg
Additional Image 99.5.38_BMC_f.jpg

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
  • A Curious Group; a cabinet of curiosities Bryn Mawr College , Apr 4, 2014 – Jun 30, 2014
  • Worlds to Discover: 125 Years of Collections at Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr College , Sep 24, 2010 – May 28, 2011
  • Journeys Through African Womanhood Bryn Mawr College , Feb 14, 2003 – Mar 28, 2003
  • African Art in the Greater Philadelphia Area The Community College of Philadelphia with a Grant from the William Penn Foundation , Nov 12, 1999 – Dec 17, 1999

  • Owner Name: Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953
    Role: Donor
    Place: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US
    Ownership End Date: 7/18/1991

Bibliography List
The following Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Marianne Hansen and Emily Croll. Worlds to Discover. Bryn Mawr College. Bryn Mawr, PA, 2010
    Page Number: 31
  • Carrie Robbins and Nathanael Roesch. A Curious Group. Bryn Mawr College. Bryn Mawr, PA, April 4–June 1, 2014
    Figure Number: Fauna 11

Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
  • Deborah Stokes, "Rediscovered Treasures: African Beadwork at the Field Museum, Chicago." African Arts 32, no. 3 (Autumn 1999): 28, Figure Number: 15.
  • Angela Fisher, Africa Adorned (London, England: Collins Harvill, 1989), 43.
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): Record No.: 0170284.

Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Andrew Fedders and Cynthia Salvadori. Turkana, Pastoral Craftsmen (Nairobi, Kenya: Transafrica Book Distributors in association with East African Literature Bureau, 1977),
  • V. Pante and G. Mazza. Turkana (Turin, Italy: Stamperia Artistica Nazionale, ),
  • Deborah Stokes, "Rediscovered Treasures: African Beadwork at the Field Museum, Chicago." African Arts 32, no. 3 (Autumn 1999): 18-31, 91.

Portfolio List Click a portfolio name to view all the objects in that portfolio
This object is a member of the following portfolios:

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Turkana Maiden’s Obolio (Necklace) |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=1/26/2023 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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