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Kuba (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Pipe

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Object Details

Culture

Kuba (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Medium

Wood and bone

Dimensions

3 3/4 x 2 1/4 x 18 inches (9.5 x 5.7 x 45.7 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of William W. Brill

Object
Number

88.026.006

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis Kuba pipe was popularly used in Congo to smoke tobacco during the 19th and 20t(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis Kuba pipe was popularly used in Congo to smoke tobacco during the 19th and 20th centuries. Its long curved stem, bone mouthpiece, and removable anthropomorphic bowl exhibit characteristics typical of tobacco pipes. The curved stem is decorated with geometric designs that were traditional to Kuba decorative arts. WHERE WAS IT MADE?This was made in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the Kuba (Bakuba) tribe. HOW WAS IT MADE?Wood was the most common material used to create Kuba pipes. Carvers followed patterns of interlocking design, which are made visible in the bands and braid work around the stem of the pipe. HOW WAS IT USED?Ownership of a pipe like this one indicated prestige within the community and as such, they were generally used by chiefs or social leaders. It was popularly believed that the smoke of the tobacco rising from the bowl of the pipe represented a connection with ancestral spirits. It is important to note that these pipes acted as both functional objects and representations of personal taste and aesthetic style. WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?There are several varieties of Kuba pipes and many of them lack facial representations. Notice here, however, that there are facial features carved on both sides of the bowl and interlocking designs on adjacent sides of the faces. The remainder of the pipe is also decorated in similar geometric designs, particularly around the stem of the pipe. This interwoven pattern varied among each ethnic group in Congo (Zaire), and was most likely taken from the geometric patterning on textiles and basketry. Carved artistry was also popular in other utilitarian objects in Kuba culture including wine cups and stools, and these objects followed a similar design technique.

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