Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Tent Divider (Te Saqwit)

19th–20th century
Beja peoples
Cotton, leather, beads, cowrie shells, palm leaf
Width: 171 1/2 in. (435.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Jerome Vogel and Susan Vogel in memory of Shirley Gordon Nichols, 1996
Accession Number:
Not on view
Positioned on the threshold between day and night living quarters, a te saqwit is an expansive canvas whose aesthetic commentary has been related to Beja conceptions of love and fertility. These associations are underscored by some of the design elements that are applied to its surface. Both the cowrie shells and the shapes of crescents and full moons are related to female fertility. Cowrie shells with convex sides that have been cut are also associated with a divining system used by most Sudanese populations.

The embroidered emblems have been related to livestock brands used in this pastoralist society as powerful protective symbols. Consequently, this dynamic expanse of abstract decoration may be intended to safeguard the household. This idea is reinforced by another textile included in Beja interiors that features a program of Islamic symbols that deter jinns, spirit entities credited with inflicting madness.
Jerome and Susan Vogel, New York, until 1996

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