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Costume for a Diviner’s Acolyte (Umkhwetha) (work of art)

Artwork Info

Xhosa artists
Artist Details
South African (Xhosa peoples and Thembu subgroup)
20th century-
before 1966
(various dimensions)


This is an example of a costume for a diviner’s acolyte. Xhosa diviners communicate directly with ancestors and other spirits—through trance, dream, divination, and sacred dance—divining the causes of illness and other misfortunes. They conduct ceremonies and rites of appeasement and are skilled in herbal medicine. Three times a year—marking the new year, spring planting, and harvest time—diviners and acolytes perform dances to ensure success and good fortune. Dances are also held to mark the stages of training for acolytes, which last five years.

tags: ceremony, community, seasons, movement


  • Costume for a Diviner's Acolyte (Umkhwetha)

    Costume for a Diviner’s Acolyte (Umkhwetha) by Xhosa artists

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Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina, by exchange