Small wooden animal, possibly a dog or warthog, stands with medicinal pack and mirror embedded into its back; face has long sneering mouth and snout, bearing teeth. short pointed ears; tail curls at end. Two “guns” or pointy projections would have come out above the dog’s front legs, but they have broken off.
Ritual specialists called banganga (plural of nganga) use minkisi (plural of nkisi) as divination tools. With the help of incantations, whistle sounds, claps, and other interactive gestures, ritual practitioners call ancestral spirits from the underworld to inhabit sculptures like this one as a means of resolving social, political, or personal problems, which befall communities or individuals. Kozo animals can see at night and as such are said to have four eyes. They are especially successful at identifying, capturing, and redressing malevolent forces.
Two components make up this vertical whistle. The superstructure is a wooden carving of two birds that face each other, bellies touching, with a small round object between them, so that each is holding it in their beaks. The birds' talons clutch the base of the sculpture. The base has a hole in the center into which the antelope horn is pegged.
The sculpture atop the horn illustrates a Vili proverb warning about the complications that stem from fighting over the same woman. Ritual specialists often doubled as judges in time of moral and social instability. People facing seemingly irreconcilable problems consulted experts to get to the root of the problem. Banganga or professional practitioners used objects like this whistle to awaken ancestral forces lying latent in nearby minkisi sculptures.
Wood-carved flywhisk is shape of a woman. Her torso doubles as the whisk handle and is scarified with leaden inlay, which has been worn smooth due to extended use. A red cotton wrap marks the transition zone between the female’s torso and the buffalo hair whisk below. The whisk visually acts as a grass skirt completing the above figure’s body and dress.
Whisks are the prerogative of rulers, divination experts or judges. This one seems to be of special importance given its intricate surface design. The figure raises her arm to her head making a gesture that indicates that she is also in the process of whisking up and down.
Naturalistic cow’s head of carved from wood with eyes cut from the bottoms of glass bottles. Natural cow horns are attached. Head is predominantly black with white triangle on forehead, red pigment surrounding eyes, red in interior of ears, white chin, and white dots on cheeks and in red ground around eyes. Horns are white, tipped in black; a fiber cord runs through its nostrils and around back of head.
This is one of several types of bovine masks ( called vaca-bruto or “wild cattle” in Creole, the lingua franca of Guinea Bissau) performed at boys and men’s initiation ceremonies, festivals and national holidays. This particular mask is called dugn’be, which represents a domesticated ox and is danced by adolescent boys newly initiated into their age grade.
A wooden staff, covered with beads in solid colors (red, blue, green and orange) outlined in black against a background of white beads, with a sideways M pattern in the middle of the shaft on either side. A stylized head of open beadwork tops the staff, followed by a tight-fitting necklace-like band with a clasp in orange and green and a white band, above solid red and blue rings.
The colors and design of the staff are the same as those seen on much of the beadwork and murals made by Ndebele women of the Transvaal region in Southern Africa, with solid colors outlined in black, organized in geometric motifs that are arranged symmetrically. At the turn of the 19th century, Ndebele women turned to the art of beadwork as a way to assert their ethnic identity in the face of forced displacement and oppression by the South African government. Since the 1970s, a new policy of forced displacements of Ndebele people has led to a great decline in the production of beadwork. Previously, beaded staffs were danced at weddings and also appeared at initiation ceremonies. The red and blue rings near the top of this particular staff are miniature versions of jewelry known as "cholwane" that women wear on their limbs and as neckrings.
Slightly curved staff, topped by two snakes spiraling around each other, followed by an open-worked carving of three smaller "pillars" set between ornamental carved elements above and below. On the lower half of the staff are a series of carved, protruding knobs distributed around all sides of the shaft between carved ornamental bands.
Zulu carvers, like other African artists, have long adapted their skills to serve different markets-- in this case, that of European buyers and of local dignitaries. The influx of British soldiers into the region following the Anglo-Boer and Southern African Wars of the late 19th century seems to have stimulated the production of staffs (and other carvings) originally intended for local consumption by either chiefs or, somewhat later on, wealthy individuals. The spiralling snake motif, in particular, is very common among many southern African peoples and has long been popular with colonial officers collecting souvenirs from the places where they were stationed. The varied relations between carvers of different backgrounds, adapting and inventing new styles, and a heterogeneous group of African and European buyers makes the attribution of objects to a single ethnic group problematic.
A highly decorated wooden chair with a single arched backing rod for support. There are large bulb-like posts on top with graphic decorations throughout. There are large metal domed hardware on the seat and upper posts.