Object photography

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Object description

  • African artist
  • Cup, 19th century
  • Wood, cowry shell
  • Kuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Africa
  • H: 9 1/4 in, dia.: 5 3/8 in (H: 23.5 cm, dia.: 13.7 cm)
  • Gift of Mrs. Charles G. Loring, 1904
  • E5917


A carved wooden cup for drinking palm wine in the shape of a human head with ram's horns. The cup is decorated with cowry shell inlay. Further Remarks: Cups such as this were used for the ritual drinking of palm wine by men of high status and prominent community members. It's highly stylized decoration was a symbol pf the owner's wealth and good taste. The ram is a domensicated animal, but can be aggressive. It's horns are durable and thus symbolic of the underlying strength and power of the cup's user. Cowry shells were imported and considered highly valuable.

Exhibition History

  • Odyssey: A Journey into World Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; October 16, 1999 through January 11, 2001