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African Origins
African Origins

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  • Escaping slaves understood then that, like the folk song quoted above, the jockey statue would guide them to the Underground Railroad and to freedom. (In "Follow the Drinking Gourd," the lyrics surreptitiously suggested slaves follow the "drinking gourd," a nickname for the Big Dipper, which pointed to the North Star and the way to freedom. Among other things, it advised that travel was safest in the spring "when the sun comes back.")[1]

  • Fetish-calabash from the Bamileke people of the Cameroon Grassfields | Gourd, wood, animal skulls

    Death mythology

     Among the Luba, the Bugabo Society was an association of men and women dedicated to hunting, healing and fighting crime. The protective spirit of the society was represented by a gourd filled with powerful medicines and topped by a carved figure.

    Respecting the dead

    Zaramo Large Medicine Gourd With Figural Stopper

    Sharing food


    [2]Women carrying gourds.

    [3]Receptacle to serve or consume drinks (cup) from the Luba people of Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo | Wood | ca. 19th - early 20th century

    [4]A Luba/Hemba calabash figure Democratic Republic of Congo, of typical form, the figurine perched atop the calabash, with hands to breast in classical gesture. Magical attachments at the waist; fine resinous patina. height 9 1/2in sold for US$ 3,600.bonhams

    [5]Female Power Figure - Among the Luba, the Bugabo Society was an association of men and women dedicated to hunting, healing and fighting crime. The protective spirit of the society was represented by a gourd filled with powerful medicines and topped by a carved figure. During initiations, novices would place in the gourd certain secret items that would accumulate over time until the assemblage acquired a power far greater than any of its parts. The gesture of the female figure is a sign of the secrets women keep within them. A 1950s field photograph shows that the base of the figure originally rested on top of the gourd opening and that the surface was encrusted.Smithsonian


    [7]Zulu medicine gourd. 1980s Height: 7 Inches Width: 5 Inches Depth: 5 Inches Materials: Gourd, Beads, String shop

    [8] Canteen gourd with thumb piano

    [9] Canteen gourd - Neffrititti by Patricia C. Boyd
    [10] Fertility figure - First Kick by Patricia C. Boyd

    [11] Mother Gourd - Wrapped in Innocence Gourd Sculpture by Patricia Boyd

    [12] Fetish-calabash from the Bamileke people of the Cameroon Grassfields | Gourd, wood, animal skulls

    [13]Large Medicine Gourd With Figural Stopper - Across much of East Africa from Ethiopia to South Africa and west to Congo basin calabashes are cultivated, trained into useful shapes, hollowed out and fashuioned into containers. In traditional societies they were often hung from the rafters and on the walls of huts where they housed everything from fermenting beverages to honey and medicinal elixirs and powders. When it came to housing medicinal substances the calabash became something more than a mere container as the effectiveness of its contents required the active involvement of overseeing spirits or powers. For this reason, particularly in Tanzania, medicine gourds were special and needed to look the part. They were embellished with beads, shells and other adornments and always closed with carved stoppers. These stoppers may be anthropomorphic, zoomorphic or non-figural, but where nganga (traditional medicine) is involved they are almost never plain. This calabash with its elegant stopper stands 12" tall. Zaramo people, Tanzania. amyas

    [14]Zaramo Medicine Gourd With Female - This stopper was personally collected in a Zaramo village by Mohamed Jaffer, himself the product of a Zaramo-Tutsi household with a great many Zaramo family contacts. The coiffure of the serene female half figure calls to mind Luguru representations. In fact the Zaramo have traditions very close to the Luguru from who they are understood to have descended. This gourd was in use for a great many decades. Erosion from a leaky roof has left its mark on the figure's left side and down a matching stretch of the calabash. 9" tall. amyas

    [15]Calabash (gourd) vessel from Cameroon or Nigeria | Gourd, twine, raffia and cowrie shells. Through the Eyes of Our Ancestors: African Art from the James and Marjorie L. Wilson Collection

    [16]Decorated calabash representing a child (ritual object for fertility) from the Bashada people of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia | Wood, leather, gourd and beads | ca. 2008

    [17]Calabash traditonal medicine container. An old gourd medicine container with carved stopper/head.The container is decorated with strands of old red and white glass beads.The head has white glass beaded eyes and fine strands of transparent beads acting as hair. Laguru tribe – Tanzania gallery

    [18]Finely Decorated Gourd. The gourd is beautifully decorated with images of people,plants and geometric designs. It has a fantastic traditional restoration repairing an old crack with the gourd finely stitched together.The stopped indicates that this gourd was also possibly used as a doll and well as a container.Tanzanian. H – 28 cm. gallery

    [19]Old calabash medicine container ,Pare-North Eastern Tanzania. | Calabash container with nicely carved stopper of a male head,container is wrapped in animal skin with a woven sisel handle. gallery

    [20]Container from Nigeria | Gourd decorated by burning and incising the surface. Leather strap | ca. 1973 or earlier collection

    [21]Decorated dipper/ladle from the Lourenço-Marquès region of Mozambique | Gourd (calabash), pigment and white glass beads | 19th century gallery

    [22]Medicine gourd. Along with many other gourd containers with figurative and architectonic stoppers, the gourd was the property of an ethnic Zulu herbalist with a mainly Zulu clientele in western Swaziland. Each vessel stored a different vital ingredient or potion and most of the stoppers appeared to be the work of different carvers. amyas

    [23] Vessel from the Turkana people of Kenya | Calabash, beads and leather | 20th century. the met

    [24]Borana milk container, Ethiopia. gallery

    [25]Borana milk container, Ethiopia. gallery

    [26]Water vessel possibly from the Kitoki people of Ushasi, Mara, Tanzania or from the Lake Victoria region | Gourd, glass beads and copper wire | ca. 1934 or earlier. museum

    [27]This is a beautiful Painted and Etched Black and White Calabash ( gourd) from the Kamba People in the Lowlands of Southeast Kenya. item

    [28]Calabash with Ritual Pieces, Songye, circa 1910 UMMA

    [29]Democratic Republic of the Congo, CULTURE Suku;PERIOD XIX-XXth century;CATEGORIES Power Figure / Magical Figure / Fetish; FEATURES; Anthropomorphic, standing;MATERIALS Wood, Reptile Skin, Calabash / Colocynth;SIZE 26.50 cm artkhade
    [30]African Hemba Rattle And Power Figure Carved From Wood And Made With Natural Calabash Gourds, Lualaba River, Congo. Fully Functional And Rattles Loudly. Provenance: Ethnographic Tribal Museum Collection (See Auction Catalog Description). Some Lots Have Been On Exhibition And Have A Custom Made Metal Stand Specifically Designed To Fit The Work. Estimated more than 75 yrs. old. African art is a term typically used for the art of Sub-Saharan Africa. A few of the most popular traditional African art was produced by the tribal people of the Fang, Dan, Baoule, Dogon, Senufo, Makonde, Bambara, and San. Most African sculpture was historically in wood and other natural materials that have not survived from earlier than a few centuries ago; older pottery figures can be found from a number of areas. Masks are important elements in the art of many peoples, along with human figures, often highly stylized and in vast variety of styles. Sculpture is most common among "groups of settled cultivators in the areas drained by the Niger and Congo rivers. Direct images of deities are relatively infrequent, but masks in particular were made for religious ceremonies. Later West African cultures developed bronze casting for reliefs, like the Benin Bronzes, to decorate palaces and for highly naturalistic royal heads from around the Yoruba town of Ife, in terracotta as well as metal, from the 12th to 14th centuries. Akan gold weights are a form of small metal sculptures produced over the period 1400–1900; some apparently represent proverbs, contributing a narrative element rare in African sculpture; and royal regalia included impressive gold sculptured elements. Many West African figures are used in religious rituals and are often coated with materials placed on them for ceremonial offerings. Eastern Africans, in many areas shorter of large timber to carve, are known for Tinga Tinga paintings and Makonde sculptures. There is also tradition of producing textile art. Modern Zimbabwean sculptors in soapstone have achieved considerable international success. Southern Africa's oldest known clay figures date from 400 to 600 AD and have cylindrical heads with a mixture of human and animal features. auction
    [31]Genius Kabwelulu Luba - Piece from the Jan Putteneers collection of African art(Antwerpen, Belgium). Coin collected "in situ" 1945.
    The genies Kabwelulu Luba consist of a calabash surmounted by an anthropomorphic figure similar to the Mikisi statuettes.They are also cult objects that often represent ancestors, but can also be loaded with magical elements used for divination or apotropaic purposes.
    Many traces on the character's head.
    The Luba (Baluba in Tchiluba) are a people of Central Africa. Their cradle is Katanga, specifically the Lubu River area, hence the name (Baluba, which means "Lubas"). They were born of a secession of the Songhoy ethnic group, under the direction of Ilunga Kalala who killed the old king Kongolo venerated since in the form of a python. In the sixteenth century they created a state, organized in decentralized chiefdom, which extended from the Kasaï river to Lake Tanganyika. The chiefdoms cover a small territory without real border which gathers at most 3 villages. However the different chiefdoms are linked by the trade. The outstanding figures of this Luba monarchy are kings Kongolo, Kalala Ilunga (16th century) and successors Kasongo Nyembo and Kabongo. The Balubas split often giving birth to Bena-Lulua and Lunda. Thus the Mwata Yamvo, lunda emperor was born of a Luba father, and Moses Tshombe, one of these descendant, is also of Luba origin. In the 19th century the lubas could not face the assaults of the Chokwe, lele and Yekes. Previously balubas worshiped their dead ancestors living in heaven and protecting them.They also had oracles (lubuko) with diviners.The Flemish priests nevertheless transcribed and taught the tchiluba in schools near the French.Les balubas did not know not private property: the notion of selling land came with colonization. auction
    [32]Luba Kabwelulu, Female Figure with Gourd, (DR Congo); kabwelulu, consisting of a carved female half-figure atop a gourd/calabash base, from the Luba peoples of the DR Congo. Used in initiation rituals, power items would be placed & stored inside the gourd, & the kabwelulu's power would gradually increase over time.
    With fertility a primary concern for the perpetuity of tribal life, the female form is a favorite theme in Luba sculpture. In this beautifully carved piece, the figure strikes a traditional pose of presenting breasts. Her face is characterized by an expression of quiet dignity & composure. Her torso features distinctive scarification patterns, & her neck bears a number of neck-rings. A complex coiffure adds to the overall grace & elegance of the piece. The figure is secured to the gourd with twisted fibers & a mud/clay substance, then stitched around the top of the gourd. Attached to the piece are power items including snail shells & feathers. A special reed-wrapped ring is attached to the bottom of the gourd, permitting the piece to stand upright
    [33]Divination bowl wood statue LUBA Shankadi Congo DRC African tibal First Arts sale
    [34]A Luba Oil calabash gallery

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