Kuba Tukula Pot

Tukula was considered a very expensive cosmetic and was treasured.
Tribe: Kuba

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.


Camwood (Baphia nitida) the core of the Camwood tree beneath the bark can be ground into a fibrous powder which has a very gentle exfoliating effect that is perfect for sensitive skin and is traditionally used all over West Africa as an antiseptic treatment for common skin conditions like Acne, Eczema, Wrinkles, blemishes, blackheads and sunburns; as well as in indulgent native spa treatments for new-borns and brides to be.

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