Kuba Tukula Pot
Origin: Kuba Kingdom, D.R.Congo
Approx Age: Early – mid 20th century
Materials: Wood, remains of tukula powder
Dimensions cm: 24 long x 11 widest point
Ref. Number: 1280
This is a stunning and old Kuba tukula box, camwood powder was kept in wooden containers like these. This was from an old collection in Ghent, it still holds remains of the red tukula / cam-wood powder inside. This is a really beautifully styled Kuba box/pot, there is very delicate incised patterning “nnaam” it is very worn due to mass handling over the years of use., the handle on the lid is a very well carved hand and string at the rear as a hinge.
Provenance: Ex private Ghent, Belgian collection.
Boxes such as these were for storing tukula–a reddish powder made from the bark of a tree. It was used for body and hair coloring and
used to ornament the face and chest during dances, as well as to anoint bodies for burial. Boxes as these were also used for rituals objects, some are in the shape of a mask. Tukula was considered a very expensive cosmetic and was treasured.
Surface decoration that cover these vessels and boxes are known as nnaam, a Kuba term referring to the tangled vines and creepers that grow in the fertile forests of this region.
One of the important art forms identified with competition between titled court members among the Kuba are the carved palm-wine drinking cups and ornately carved boxes that held tukula powder. With half of all Bushoong men holding titles in the 1880s, competition for influence was sometimes fierce, and found expression in the elaboration of these essentially commonplace household objects into works of extraordinary beauty.
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