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Culture:Congolese, Luba people
Title:Divination gourd (mboko)
Date Made:early 20th century
Materials:gourd, bone, feathers, metal, fur, seeds, and other natural and artificial materials
Place Made:Africa
Measurements:Overall: 5 x 8 1/2 in; 12.7 x 21.6 cm
Accession Number:  AC 1999.11
Credit Line:The Barry D. Maurer (Class of 1959) Collection of African art purchased with Amherst College Discretionary Fund and funds from H. Axel Schupf (Class of 1957)
Museum Collection:  Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

Label Text:
A divination receptacle of hollowed gourd with attached fur pelt fragment which holds feathers, animal bone fragments, man-made metal pieces, and carved figures.

This hollowed gourd (mboko), and its assemblage of natural and man-made objects within, unlock the sources of human hardship during Bilumbu divination rites practiced by Luba peoples in central Africa. Luba diviners use such containers to diagnose the root causes of various problems, thereby providing guidance toward health, justice, and social harmony. When a client arrives for counsel, the diviner selects a calabash, shakes it, and then removes the lid. The motion of the gourd’s contents summons a spirit that the diviner accesses to form the “organizing images”: while possessed by the spirit, the diviner takes the upright and topmost items as revelatory signs of the causes of the client’s problems.

symbolism; religion; round; roughness

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