May 30, 2014
This small wooden animal carving is known as an itoom and is used as an object of divination among the Kuba people, who live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When practicing divination, Kuba diviners, called ngwoom, make an inquiry and then rub a small wooden disc with a smooth base and a projecting knob over the back of the itoom. The answer to the ngwoom’s inquiry is determined by where the disc sticks as it is rubbed across the itoom’s back. You can see that the back of this carving has been worn down from use. Common animals represented by itoom are crocodiles, warthogs, lizards, and dogs. You can see this artifact on display in the new exhibit A Glimpse of Africa: Five Cultures from the Continent.