Traditional Skirts

Traditional skirts are an essential part of the cultural heritage of Southern Africa. These skirts are not just a piece of clothing but a symbol of identity, history, and culture.

The style and design of traditional skirts vary from one tribe to another. This reflects the uniqueness and diversity of the region’s communities. Keep reading to see pictures of different traditional skirts.

sepedi short skirt
Sepedi Short Skirt

Types of Traditional Skirts

In Southern Africa, women’s skirts are often made from colourful and patterned fabrics, woven or printed, such as cotton, silk, and linen. The skirts can be ankle-length or shorter. Their styles range from a simple wraparound design to more elaborate shapes that feature multiple layers and pleats.

Some skirts are decorated with embroidery, beadwork, or cowrie shells, which have significant cultural and spiritual meanings.

Traditional skirts in Southern Africa not only serve as a form of self-expression but also represent the history, values, and beliefs of the people who wear them. The skirts also play a vital role in cultural ceremonies, such as weddings, initiation rituals, and ancestral ceremonies.

zulu skirt
Zulu Beaded Skirt

Zulu Skirts

For example, in South Africa, the Zulu people wear a wraparound skirt called “isidwaba”. It is made of cowhide or goatskin, which is dyed in bright colors and decorated with beads.

leather isidwaba
Leather Isidwaba

Xhosa Traditional Skirts

The Xhosa skirt is typically a long, straight, and colorful garment that is worn by women. The skirt is made from various fabrics, including printed cotton, shweshwe, and the traditional Xhosa fabric called iBayi. The skirts are often decorated with intricate patterns, embroidery, or beadwork, which symbolise important aspects of Xhosa culture.

xhosa traditional skirt
Xhosa Skirt

Ndebele Skirts

The Ndebele traditional skirts are colorful, pleated skirts. The skirts are made from a variety of fabrics, including cotton, silk, and synthetic materials. They are often adorned with intricate beadwork, embroidery, or sequins. The skirts come in a range of bright colours and geometric patterns, which are significant to Ndebele culture and symbolise different aspects of the community.

colourful ndebele skirt
Colourful Ndebele Skirt

Sepedi Skirts

The Sepedi skirt, also known as the “magadi,” is typically a long, straight, and brightly colored garment that is made from cotton, wool, or synthetic fabrics. The skirt is usually decorated with intricate patterns and symbols that are significant to Bapedi culture, such as the sun, stars, and moon.

sepedi yellow skirt
Sepedi Yellow Skirt
sepedi traditional skirts in blue and red
Blue and Red

Tsonga Skirts

The traditional Tsonga skirt for women is known as the “xibelani” and is a brightly colored, multi-layered garment that is made from fabric with intricate patterns and designs. The skirt is typically worn with a matching blouse and a beaded necklace or headband.

tsonga clan names
Xibelani with Headwear

Shweshwe Skirts

Shweshwe traditional skirts are usually long and full, with a high waist and a flared hemline. The skirts come in various colors and patterns, from classic indigo and white to bright and bold prints. Some Shweshwe skirts also feature intricate embroidery, beadwork, or lace accents, which add to their unique and vibrant look.

shweshwe traditional skirts
Shweshwe Skirt in Red

Swazi Skirts

The traditional Swazi skirt for women is known as the “sisibo” or “emahiya,” and it is made from a variety of materials, including woven grass, animal skins, or cotton. The skirt is often brightly coloured and adorned with intricate beadwork or embroidery. This symbolises different aspects of Swazi culture, such as fertility, prosperity, or royalty.

swazi skirt
Cotton Sisibo

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