Divination basket

images for Divination basket
Object Name
ngombo
Label Text
Part of a divination ensemble known as ngombo ya cisuka, this beautiful, well-made coiled basket, created by a post-menopausal woman, contains more than 100 small objects of various types and materials. Each object has a name and meaning associated with daily affairs.
People consult a diviner for many reasons, including illness, accidents, death, sterility or impotence. The diviner (tahi), often the headman of his village, repeatedly shakes the basket with the objects inside. Depending upon where the objects come to rest in the basket, the diviner interprets the meaning of the pieces for his client. Sessions may last several hours.
Created by the diviner and his assistants, the items in the basket include natural objects and representations of people and animals. For example, kalamba kuku wa lunga, or ancestor figures, squat with their elbows on their knees, indicating desolation because their descendants have neglected them. Another figure wears a mukishi mask, worn during circumcision rituals, and evokes the spirit of cikunza, associated with hunting and fertility. Katwambimbi, the weeping woman shown with her hands over her head, is a sign of imminent death.
Lidded basket complete with contents used in divination practices. The lid itself has 5 pieces of animal skin with fur placed and hung around the rim. In addition the remains of 2 black-shelled turtles are also attached with the cord to the rim. The basket has black and white and red and white turtle shell remains with an animal horn in between them, all attached by cord underneath on the basket's rim. The basket contains 154 objects which include: 1) one small bundle of spear or arrow shafts (10) and one larger bundle of the same (24); 2) various pieces of skin/hide; 3) pieces of calabash, including one large, half globular container with compacted materials; 4) packets of medicine including one in the shape of a bow tie; 5) various small rocks and pebbles; 6) seed pods, including vegetable remains, such as maize; 7) weapons and tools including facsimiles of an adze, a pick axe, a spade shaped implement; 8) animal remains including a lizard's head, animal horns, monkey, chicken and cock claws, bird beaks, feathers, insect casings, various other bones, quills and feathers and wooden figures of dogs; 9) wooden figures of humans in rawhide beds, two tethered slaves, a copulating couple, a figure described as a male ancestor and a figure wearing a chikunza mask.
1) one small bundle of spear or arrow shafts (10) and one larger bundle of the same (24); 2) various pieces of skin/hide; 3) pieces of calabash, including one large, half globular container with compacted materials; 4) packets of medicine including one in the shape of a bow tie; 5) various small rocks and pebbles; 6) seed pods, including vegetable remains, such as maize; 7) weapons and tools including facsimiles of an adze, a pick axe, a spade shaped implement; 8) animal remains including a lizard's head, animal horns, monkey, chicken and cock claws, bird beaks, feathers, insect casings, various other bones, quills and feathers and wooden figures of dogs; 9) wooden figures of humans in rawhide beds, two tethered slaves, a copulating couple, a figure described as a male ancestor and a figure wearing a chikunza mask.
Provenance
Collected in Africa, before 1930
Private collection, Belgium
Pierre Loos, Brussels, before 1972
Emile M. Deletaille, Brussels, 1972 to 1986
Exhibition History
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing
BIG/small, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., January 17-July 23, 2006
African Art: Permutations of Power, Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, October 12, 1997-February 15, 1998
Africa: The Art of a Continent, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, June 5-September 29, 1996
Published References
Kreamer, Christine, Mary Nooter Roberts, Elizabeth Harney and Allyson Purpura. 2007. Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution; Milan: 5 Continents Editions, p. 22, no. 1.12.
Mellor, Stephen P. 2004. "The Exhibition and Conservation of African Objects: Considering the Nontangible." Art Tribal 7, pp. 110-111, no. 4.
National Museum of African Art. 1999 (?). Images of Power and Identity: Selections from the Permanent Collection. Exhibition brochure. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.
National Museum of African Art. 1988. The Permanent Collection of the National Museum of African Art, Large-Type Edition. Museum brochure. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.
National Museum of African Art. 1999. Selected Works from the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 126, no. 87.
Petridis, Constantine. 2013. Fragments of the Invisible: The René and Odette Delenne Collection of Congo Sculpture. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art; Milan: 5 Continents Editions, p. 21, no. 14.
Samuel P. Harn Museum. 1997. African Art: Permutations of Power. Gainesville: Samuel P. Harn Museum, University of Florida, p. 27, no. 28.
Wastiau, Boris. 2006. Visions of Africa: Chokwe. Milan: 5 Continents Editions, p. 12, no. 1.
Topic
Divination
National Museum of African Art
Chokwe artist
Credit Line
Museum purchase
Medium
Plant fiber, seed, stone, horn, shell, bone, metal, feather, camwood
Dimensions
H x W x D: 10.2 x 30.7 x 30.7 cm (4 x 12 1/16 x 12 1/16 in.)
See more items in
National Museum of African Art Collection
Exhibition
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts
On View
NMAfA, Second Level Gallery (2193)
Geography
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Angola
Mid-19th to early 20th century
Type
Container
Object number
86-12-17.1