Mbukushu Braided Headdress / Wig

Mbukushu ‘Humbukush’ women wore removable wigs as coiffeurs.
Tribe: Mbukushu / Kavango Group

Origin: Botswana/Namibia/Angola

Approx Age: 19th – Early 20th century

Materials: Hide, plant fibre, glass beads

Dimensions cm: approximately 50 long

Ref. Number: 0818


An old and stunning example of a Mbukushu braided wig headdress, the leather/hide base has deteriorated due to age and would have held a plant fibre fringe. Beautifully beaded centre braid, these were braided to mimic real hair. This was an important object when it was used and remains so today.

Provenance: Ex Ramond Inskeep Collection.

AHDRC N˚ ao-0135614-001


Mbukushu braided wig headdress was previously owned by Raymond Inskeep who took the assistant curators job at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford in 1972 along-side Bernard Fagg, Inskeep took charge of the museum when Fagg fell ill.

Along the Okavango River that passes through northern Namibia, the Mbukushu are part of a larger Kavango group, among whom elaborate hairstyles were traditionally worn. For adult Mbukushu women, a paste of grass, finely crushed wood, and fat is rubbed into the hair, creating a distinctive matted appearance and enabling the attachment of a thick sisal braid to the top of the head and the addition of sisal hair extensions to create long hanging plait’s. Beads, buttons, and shells enhanced the coiffure. Wigs such as this one, in which the fibre is attached to a leather base, allow women to present themselves on special occasions wearing the traditional hairdo while avoiding the time-consuming process the creation of the original involved.

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