The Department's Bead Study Group, a volunteer organization that
dedicates itself to working with beads and beaded items in the DMNS
collections, has had a bit of a mystery on their hands. Acquired in
November 1971, this beaded bag (DMNS catalogue number A624.4) was
originally identified as Chippewa. However, upon further inspection
in 1990 by an appraiser well versed in North American ethnographic
beadwork, the bag was determined to not be of Chippewa design, but
perhaps of African origin.
Now the sleuthing begins. In 2007, Collections Manager Isabel
Tovar tasked the Bead Study Group with trying to sort out the vast
divide between North American and African designations. Asking
another expert in African beads and beadwork resulted in a
determination of "not African". Yet another expert in various areas
of cultural beadwork provided the possiblity of the item
having been made between 1930 and 1940 in Gujarat, India. The
geometric diamond pattern is odd for Gujarat items which usually
showcase animal figures, however, there are instances where
material from this region favors geometric designs.
The Bead Study Group continued their research and thanks to the
various pieces of information provided to them, have narrowed it
down to the possibility that this collection piece is perhaps a
Gujarat game board. The back of the beaded piece is covered in a
canvas backing indicating that the item may have been placed on the
ground during play. Other possibilities include the item being a
wall hanging decoration or a pillow cover.
Do any of you have more information on what this item might be?
If you recognize this piece and can add to the existing
documentation file, please contact Anthropology Collections Manager
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