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Kamis

  • Place of origin:

    Ethiopia (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1860 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cotton embroidered with silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Secretary of State for India

  • Museum number:

    399-1869

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This Ethiopian kamis (dress) belonged to Queen Terunesh, or Empress Tiruwork Wube, the second wife of Emperor Tewodros II and the mother of Prince Alemayehu. The Queen died about a month after the 1868 siege of Maqdala (Magdala), while being escorted by the British army to her home province. Her possessions were then sent to England, to the Secretary of State for India, who gave this garment to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1869. Items looted during the siege were also given to the Museum.

This kamis is made from two layers of soft cotton extensively decorated with a series of embroidered bands around the neck, appearing to hang down the front of the chest like a large piece of jewellery. Solid flat bands of chevrons separate three chain-like patterns in which the ground fabric has been manipulated to form small bumps. The cuffs are narrow and also embroidered.

Physical description

Kamis (dress) of cotton embroidered with silk.
This dress is made from two layers of soft cotton extensively decorated with a series of embroidered bands around the neck, appearing to hang down the front of the chest like a large piece of jewellery. Solid flat bands of chevrons separate three chain-like patterns in which the ground fabric has been manipulated to form small bumps. The cuffs are narrow and also embroidered.

Place of Origin

Ethiopia (made)

Date

ca. 1860 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Cotton embroidered with silk

Dimensions

Length: 49 in, Width: 62 in sleeve to sleeve

Object history note

This Ethiopian kamis (dress) belonged to Queen Terunesh, or Empress Tiruwork Wube, the second wife of Emperor Tewodros II and the mother of Prince Alemayehu. The Queen died about a month after the 1868 siege of Maqdala (Magdala), while being escorted by the British army to her home province. Her possessions were then sent to England, to the Secretary of State for India, who gave this garment to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1869. Items looted during the siege were also given to the Museum.

Displayed in V and A Africa: Exploring Hidden Histories
15 November 2012 - 3rd February 2013

Displayed in Maqdala 1868
5 April 2018 - 30 June 2019

Descriptive line

Kamis (dress), cotton embroidered with silk, Ethiopia, about 1860

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Crill, Rosemary, Jennifer Wearden and Verity Wilson. Dress in Detail from Around the World. London: V&A Publications, 2002. 224 p., ill. ISBN 09781851773787. p. 36.
Robe featured in V&A web theme 'Treasures from Ethiopia' [http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/periods_styles/hiddenhistories/ethiopia_treasures/index.html]
N. Stylianou, Producing and Collecting for Empire: African Textiles in the V&A 1852- 2000, PhD Thesis, 2012
Alexandra Jones, 'Ethiopian Objects at the Victoria and Albert Museum,' African Research & Documentation, no. 135 (2019): 8-24.

Labels and date

Maqdala 1868 display, 5 April 2018 - 30 June 2019

Woman’s dress, or kamis, belonging to Queen Terunesh | የሴቶች ቀሚስ፣ የእቴጌ ጥሩነሽ ንብረት
Made in Ethiopia around 1860

This dress was probably given to Queen Terunesh as part of her wedding dowry when she married Emperor Tewodros, aged about 12 years old. The dress has been extended with additional panels at the bottom, perhaps to allow the queen to continue wearing it as she grew older and taller. The series of embroidered bands around the neck hang down the front of the chest, mimicking a large piece of jewellery.

I knew nothing of the history of Queen Terunesh, wife of a king and mother to a prince. Now I am gazing at her dress, its colour and embroidery preserved, a symbol of a young girl becoming a woman.

- Almaz Tesfaye, V&A Estates Services, member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church [5 April 2018 - 30 June 2019]
RELATED LABEL:

Pair of anklets
Ethiopia
1800–67

Contemporary reports record that the widowed queen wished to be escorted back to her native province of Semyen but she died en route, possibly of lung disease. Her funeral took place on 16 May 1868 in the great church at Chelicut and was covered in the Illustrated London News. The queen’s possessions were sent on to the Secretary of State for India at the India Office in London. They were given to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) the following year.

Silver
Given by the Secretary of State for India
Museum no. 403&A-1869
[15/11/2012 - 03/02/2013]

Materials

Silk thread; Cotton yarn

Techniques

Embroidering; Weaving; Sewing

Subjects depicted

Chevrons; Geometric

Categories

Black History; Clothing; Embroidery; Africa

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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