Kuba Box

Beautiful Kuba trinket/knife box, rectangular with carved geometric decoration and dome handle in the centre of the cover.

Kuba Tukula pot
Tribe: Kuba

Origin: Kuba Kingdom DRC

Approx Age: Mid 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 26.5 (long) x 8 (wide)

Ref. Number: 1399



This Kuba box is rectangular in shape with a lovely geometric pattern/design which is so typical of the Kuba. Most probably carved for a ceremonial knife or possibly for trinkets/jewellery. The lid also displays a matching design. A dome shape, that is studded, to the centre of the lid adds both charm and character to this box. There are remnants of cam powder together with holes where once a fastening would have held the box shut. Plenty of signs of being a well-used and cherished item of Kuba art.

Provenance: Ex-Sotheby’s 1987. Ex-Tom Phillips – London

AHDRC N˚ 0023628-001


The Kuba box such as this is normally this rectangle in shape yet Kuba tukula boxes have a variety of shapes either a small pot or a rectangular or crescent moon. The pots or boxes are often highly decorated with geometric patterns/designs indeed surface decoration that covers these vessels and boxes is known as nnaam/nyinga, a Kuba term referring to the tangled vines and creepers that grow in the fertile forests of this region. and lidded to keep the contents safe. Used for a number of reasons from keeping beads or jewellery in but perhaps the more common and well-recognised purpose is for the storage of what is known as Tukula. Tukula is a bright red pigment obtained by rubbing together pieces of heartwood from a tropical tree. Two tree species, Camwood (Bafia Nitra) and African Padauk (Pterocarpus Soyauxii), are valued for their red heartwood. When grinding in a mortar, Tukula becomes a fine powder. This fine powder is often mixed with palm oil to create a paste/paint that can then be used to dye textiles, paint carved objects and even be used as a cosmetic to decorate the body. So versatile that the Tukula paste can also be baked, creating a hard block known as bongotol. These blocks are then decorated and presented as gifts at funerals.

Photo opposite from the Guy van Rijn archives AHDRC

Guy Van Rijn, AHDRC Database



Contact Exquisite African Art

10 + 11 =

+44 (0)1507 328026

Follow us

Subscribe to our mailing list

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This