Artifacts

Kuba Mask

Mbwoom webxThis Kuba mask, known as Mbwoom, is predominately made of carved wood with cowrie shell and bead embellishments. The Kuba people live in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Masks of this type are from the Kuba royal court, and are worn in dances during important festivities.  The mask serves to send appeals to the ancestors.  There are three main mythical characters represented in Kuba royal masks: Woot, the original Kuba king, Woot’s sister/wife, and a pygmy commoner who tried to lure the king’s wife away, symbolized by the Mbwoom mask.

Top and Rope

Malaysia Top webThis hand carved wooden top, known as a gasing, is from Sarawak, Malaysia.  It is used in a traditional game of competition, whereby the top is spun on the ground, using the special rope, and the winner of the competition is the person whose gasing spins the longest.  The specially woven rope, used with the gasing, has a unique tapered diameter, thicker at the end that is held in the hand and tapering down to the end that is wrapped around the gasing.  The gasing is thrown, by hand, and the rope is jerked back creating a spin of the top. Another competition using the gasing, is where one competitor tries to knock the other competitors’ gasing out of a ring that is drawn on the ground.  This gasing is made of a very dense, local hardwood.

Palm Spathe

PalmSpathe web

The spathe is the woody part of a palm tree that surrounds the flower.  Cultures in tropical areas use this part of the tree for a variety of purposes.
This palm spathe is from Saragum Village in the East Sepik River Province of Papua New Guinea.  It features an image of a sitting male figure.  Painted palm spathes of this type are used to decorate the front of a men’s house, also known as Haus Tambaran, a building where the men of the village negotiate with the spirit world to assure the villagers’ security and good fortune.

Dogon Ladder

Dogon LadderThe Dogon people of Mali create ladders by carving wedges into tree trunks that fork at the top.  The notches serve as footholds, while the fork at the top stabilizes the ladder.  The Dogon use ladders to climb to their traditional cliff dwellings and to raised granaries.

Slit Gong

Slit gongs (sometimes called slit drums) are a popular type of percussion instrument used by cultures in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.  The Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, created this one by hollowing out a piece of wood, carving traditional designs into the surface, and then painting the ends to enhance the designs.  The Maori use slit gongs as musical accompaniment during ceremonies.

Yupik Hat

Yupik Hat
Hats of this type are worn by the Yupik people of Alaska in the spring to protect against the sun’s glare.  This hat was made in the Kuskokwim River Valley from bone and very thin sheets of wood.  The white paint that originally covered the wood has largely worn away.  The hat was collected by Moravian missionaries based in Bethel, Alaska and was donated to the Museum as a part of the Wachovia Historical Society Collection.