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Kamis

ca. 1860 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Plain weave cotton embroidered with silk
Brief Description
Kamis (dress), plain weave cotton embroidered with silk, Ethiopia, about 1860
Physical Description
Kamis (dress) of plain weave 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.
Dimensions
  • Length: 49in
  • Sleeve to sleeve width: 62in
Dimensions taken from paper records.
Gallery Label
  • 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)
Credit line
Given by the Secretary of State for India
Object history
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
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
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.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • 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]
  • Nicola Stylianou, Producing and Collecting for Empire: African Textiles at the V&A, 1852- 2000, PhD Thesis, London: University of the Arts, 2013
  • Alexandra Jones, 'Ethiopian Objects at the Victoria and Albert Museum,' African Research & Documentation, no. 135 (2019): 8-24.
  • N. Stylianou, The Empress's Old Clothes: Biographies of African Dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in: Dress History: New Directions in Theory and Practice (eds. Charlotte Nicklas and Annebella Pollen), London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2015, pp. 81-96
  • Silk: Fibre, Fabric and Fashion, edited by Lesley Ellis Miller and Ana Cabrera Lafuente with Claire Allen-Johnstone, Thames and Hudson Ltd. in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom, 2021, p. 446-447
Collection
Accession Number
399-1869

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record createdNovember 4, 2002
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