Women’s traditional clothing in Tunisia: Signs and symbols The example of Barr Al Hamah: An anthropological approach
Abdul Karim Barahmi
In Barr Al Hamah, women’s traditional clothing, (which include clothes and ornamentation), are one element of material culture. It is one example of traditional Bedouin clothing and of the clothing in many coastal villages in Tunisia.
In Tunisia and North Africa, jewellery is classified based on whether it is made of silver or gold.
Traditional clothing has protective, aesthetic and cultural functions. By reading the semiotics of those functions, we can learn about the cultural identity of Al Hamah tribe, including the women’s social and economic status.
This paper examines traditional clothing worn during the first half of the twentieth century. It identifies features common to this clothing through fieldwork, which included interviews with elderly men and women. The study also relied on observation, which is one of the most important components of the anthropological approach.
The aforementioned period is characterised by traditional fashion in Tunisia’s rural communities, which were closed societies compared to the cities where clothing styles changed rapidly and were influenced by imported trends.
During the last quarter of the twentieth century, a large proportion of traditional clothing disappeared as a result of the impact of globalization.
This paper seeks to show the diversity of traditional women’s clothing in Al Hamah tribe, and to identify signs and symbols that indicate the women’s social and economic status.
Only a few old women still wear the traditional ‘Malhafa’, and their number decreases every year.
Tunisians say "Eat according to your taste, and dress according to the people’s taste", which means you should dress for other people’s tastes.