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Hausa (Nigeria/Niger)

Hunter’s bird decoy (Burtu)

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Object Details

Culture

Hausa (Nigeria/Niger)

Medium

Wood, bird skull and beak, and leather

Dimensions

Overall: 14 × 11 1/2 inches (35.6 × 29.2 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Abbott A. Lippman, Class of 1929

Object
Number

81.091.002

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis bird decoy, called a burtu, was once used by a Hausa hunter.WHERE WAS IT MADE?(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis bird decoy, called a burtu, was once used by a Hausa hunter.WHERE WAS IT MADE?The Huasa people live primarily in northern Nigeria.HOW WAS IT MADE?This bird decoy is made from the skull and beak of a real Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. The skull and wooden neck are covered with leather. The maker of the bird decoy places special herbal medicines into the skull. These medicines are believed to debilitate the hunter’s prey, thereby increasing his chances of a successful kill.HOW WAS IT USED?Hausa hunters use the burtu for a variety of functions: hunting for the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill it depicts, performance in hunters’ festivals, and in other public and even political events. A hunter of the Ground Hornbill not only straps this decoy to his forehead, he imitates the movements of the bird. He dresses in black and conceals himself in tall grasses, so as to attract the prized bird. While hunting, he calls upon the burtu itself to assist him in his pursuit with the following proverb, “The lady of the house should not fill the children’s stomachs with desire, but rather with meat.”WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?The decoy is meant to resemble a real hornbill so as to lure a live bird to the hunter.

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