Beaded Cache-Sexe, Cameroon

Beads, cowries

19 3/4 x 9 in. (50 x 23 cm)


About this object

A cache-sexe (literally translated as ‘to hide the sex’) made of iron was originally worn by Kirdi women until approximately 1960, when governmental restrictions required women to be fully-clothed. The cache-sexe tradition continues, however, and can be seen in the ornate beaded forms worn today.

The designation of ‘hide sex’ is actually not quite accurate insofar as these aprons were made to attract men’s attention to women’s genitals. The primary purpose thus was not to hide, but to draw men’s eyes, therefore these are often very ornate pieces. In the past, the iron pubic aprons were worn by mature married women indicating their elevated status in Kirdi society. Nowadays, these beaded aprons are worn on special occasions such as weddings, or the presentation of a newborn child.

Originally made of iron, nowadays cache-sexe are made of woven cotton threads, with glass beads and cowries. They utilize geometric patterns dominated by chevron and diamond forms, and the range of colored beads used is enormous, ranging from the palest of yellows to the most intense indigos. This piece is made up of beads in a variety of primary colors, forming a pattern of diamond shapes.

Hersey, Irwin. “The Beaded Cache-Sexe of Northern Cameroon.” African Arts 8, no. 2 (Winter 1975): 64.