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Silver & Goat Skin Headdress (Shabka) & Leather Face Mask (Burka)

Oman, probably Ibri Region
19th-early 20th century

height with stand: 32cm



UK art market

This wonderfully-preserved headdress known as a shabka is made of plaited and twisted goat skin and decorated with coin-shaped roundels, silver chains, and silver buttons. It sits over the head like a bonnet. Each shabka was custom-made for the wearer and based on the individual’s head measurements.

It is likely the product of Bedouin women of the Ibri or Wahiba Sands regions of Oman.

The burka is of fine, indigo-dyed goat’s skin leather. It has a protruding flap that runs vertically over the nose and two cut-out sections for the eyes.

Hoek (2004, p. 48) illustrates an Omani woman wearing later examples of both this type of burkha and shabka as shown here.

Similar Omani shabkas made from goat skin are illustrated in Rajab (1998, p. 67),  Hawley (2000, p, 89), Hoek (2004, p. 65), Borel (1994, p. 118) and Daalder (2009, p. 387).

Both items here are in excellent condition with losses or repairs. They come with a custom-made head-shaped stand hewn from a block of wood.


Borel, F., The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry: From the Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels Collection, Thames & Hudson, 1994.
Daalder, T., Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment: Australia, Oceania, Asia, Africa, Ethnic Art Press/Macmillan, 2009.
Hawley, R., Silver: The Traditional Art of Oman, Stacey International, 2000.
Hoek, C., et al, Ethnic Jewellery: From Africa, Asia and Pacific Islands, Pepin Press, 2004.
Rajab, J.S., Silver Jewellery of Oman, Tareq Rajab Museum, 1998.

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