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[Photos] How D.R. Congo’s musical artefacts ended up on display in an American museum

July 08, 2018 at 12:30 pm | History

Nduta Waweru

Nduta Waweru | Contributor

July 08, 2018 at 12:30 pm | History

The Azande ivory horn collected from Congo in 1913.

The Congo basin was largely unexplored until the late 19th century when a number of expeditions were launched to map the area.

One of the famous expeditions was the one organised by the American Museum of Natural History between 1909-1915.

In 1907, the president and director of the Museum approached the colonial administrators of the Congo.  The aim was to catalogue the plants and animals of the basin.

As they carried out the expedition, the scientists led by  Herbert Lang and  James P. Chapin, also collected some of Congo’s musical instruments, which are on display today at the Museum.

These collections were bundled up in crates and dragged through the Congo Basin and forest to Angola, Lisbon, then via a Portuguese steamer to New York.

Here are some of them.

The Azande ivory horn

The Azande ivory horn, curved out by a Zande artist. The pictographs on the horn include an artist cutting out the ivory, a woman dressing her husband’s hair and Baramabo fighting in boats. Photo: Lang-Chapin/ American Museum of Natural History

 

Whistle belonging to a chief

A wooden whistle connected to a parrot’s red tail with fur. Whistles were used to communicate with spirits. Photo: Lang-Chapin/ American Museum of Natural History

Harp with Pangolin scales

Harp with Pangolin scales. Photo: Lang-Chapin/ American Museum of Natural History

 

Rattles

Rattles made of palm fibres and filled with seeds. Used in dancing and hunting. Photo: Lang-Chapin/ American Museum of Natural History

 

Split Drum

Split drum mainly used to pass messages from one village to another. Created to depict an animal. Photo: Lang-Chapin/ American Museum of Natural History

 

Bell

This wooden bell had no clapper but was meant to be struck when the chief was drinking wine. Photo: Lang-Chapin/ American Museum of Natural History

 

 

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