Kuba Tukula Box

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

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 Tukula box is rectangular in shape with a lovely geometric pattern/design which is so typical of the Kuba. 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: Tom Phillips – London


The Kuba Tukula box such as this has a variety of shape either a small pot, 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 are known as nnaam, 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 which creates a hard block known as bongotol. These blocks are then decorated and presented as gifts at funerals.

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