These two colourful braids (kutan) accompany the white Siwan wedding tunic (Ashirah_lamilal) (ZI2019.500491 EGYPT). However, the full outfit would traditionally include the head veil (trukit) and underpants (khawatim), shoes (zrabin) and jewellery to complete it.
These two Siwa braids (kutan) were originally part of Mrs. Sheila Payne’s collection. Then purchased from Kerry Taylor’s auction to add to The Zay Initiative collection.
Sheila Paine is a collector of textiles acquired during her travels; author of several books, including ‘Chikan embroidery: the floral whitework of India’ (Aylesbury 1989), ‘Embroidered Textiles: traditional patterns from five continents with a worldwide guide to identification (London 1989), ‘The Afghan Amulet: travels from the Hindu Kush to Razgrad’ (London 1994), ’Amulets: a world of secret powers, charms and magic’ (London 2004). The British Museum acquired a number of items from her collection when this was sold through public auction at Dreweatts (q.v.) in April and November 2008.
These two long thick braids (kutan) traditionally adorn the hair of Siwan bride in Egypt. Here, they are attached to a wedding tunic (ashirah_lamilal) with metal buttons on either side of the neck opening to drop down on the yoke.
The two braids (kutan) are made up of a large group of small colourful woollen yarns braids. Colours include orange, yellow, olive green, and red. The number of braids per strand are said to be 99, in reference to the 99 names of Allah. They are embellished with nacre and glass buttons in turquoise, red, yellow, pink, and black colours.
A distinctive feature of the Siwa oasis garments is the number of different ways in which the buttons are sewn onto the dresses. Most of the buttons have four holes, and at least eighteen different ways of sewing the buttons on garments have been identified. There does not appear to be a specific reason behind the use of these patterns, and it seems that the decorative effect is sufficient. In addition, a wider variety of effects is created by using differently coloured sewing threads and the addition of small, coloured sequins in the centre of the buttons.
After marriage, the woman wears the traditional shawl (tarfutit) if she wants to leave her home. It is a black shawl, often embroidered with certain shapes and symbols, that covers the wearer from head to toe, with one hand holding the shawl in front of the face leaving only a narrow opening in front of one eye, and with the other hand controlling the shawl at the chest.