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Gallery Ezakwantu

African Art  - Art Africain - Tribal Art -  菲洲艺术 - Afrikanische Kunst


Central and Southern African Tribal Art

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African Beer - Wine and Milk Cups


Chopes de Bière Africaines - Afrikanischer Bierbecher










Kuba and related Wine Cups



The Kuba Kingdom is comprised of numerous smaller ethnic groups, including the Bushoong, Ngeende, Kel, Pyaang, Bulaang, Bieeng, Ilebo, Idiing, Kaam, Ngoombe Kayuweeng, Shoowa, Bokila, Maluk, and Ngongo. The King of Kuba is always Bushoong, as “the creator” Bumba decreed it so. All the ethnic groups have a representative in residence at the Bushoong court.





Kuba related peoples adorned their bodies with scarification. Designs found therein were replicated onto fabrics, mats, buildings, weapons and most of their wooden objects, including beer cups.


Old stories tell how there was a lake filled with palm wine out of which everyone drank. A woman polluted it, and when people refused to drink, the lake dried up and palm trees grew in the lake bed. A pygmy tasted the sap of the tree, discovered the palm wine and became drunk. (Torday 1925: 125-127) Since then, palm wine is never to be drunk alone. Rather it is shared among friends from a wooden cup, which is supplied by the host. The host displays his carved cup and passes it to another. Each man in turn holds the cup, drinks, and passes it along. In this way the status of the host is reinforced as each guest handles his elaborately carved cup.

Wine cups were elaborately decorated with geometric designs, faces and even human figures. Such display brought personal prestige and status to the owner, while making a suggestion of exceptional wealth and power. The drinking cups were individually designed and any faces may have been stylized portraits of the owners.


Kuba Cup


Circa 1930



Shoowa Patterns


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This example is carved extremely thin, so thin that an open section appears between the cup and handle.





Kuba and related woman were responsible for decorating currency fabrics with the same Shoowa design as found on beer cups.




Tiny Kuba Cup


Circa 1900



This example is tiny at 7.5 cms tall.


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In fact this is the smallest example we have ever obtained.




Kuba Double Wine Cup


Circa 1900





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This is a rarely seen double example of late 19th century origins.






Wine Cup - Mid 20th Century


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An very fine carved example.



 Chokwe 'type' incised design by a master of carving.



Kuba Wine Cup - Circa 1900





This example has a fully carved face and open worked Shoowa base.



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An excellent - rare example with acceptable decay.







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Shi Milk Container - Cup

Congo / Rwanda -  Circa 1920




The Shi live along Congo and Rwanda's lake Tanganyika northernmost region. Marc Leo Felix wrote in "100  Peoples of Zaire and Their Sculpture"; The Twa pygmies were the original inhabitants of the region, joined later by the bajunji, Bantu dynasties from the West, who arrived with some Lega. The next arrivals were expansionist pastoral groups from Rwanda, and eventually all these groups mingled together. Oral history has it hat they were once divided into clans, which were each politically separate and independent under a clan chief. By the early 20th c. all the peoples had state like political organization under the central authority of supreme chief. Divided in subgroups: Uhavu, Citwinja, Malinjalinja, Cizibaziba, Marongeronge, Ciehinyiehinyi. 


Felix also mentions that their religion is; elaborate, complicated by syncretistic tendencies having been overlaid with cults of different origins.



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This is a stunning symmetric example of a Shi  milk cup - milk pail and funnel all in one.


The Shi are also known as the Omushi, Abashi, Amashi, Bashi, Banyabungu, Wanyabungu and Bahavu. We suspect there is  more to the origins to the Shi then what has been recorded and propose the Bechwana - Tswana peoples, as well as the Shona and / or related others, should not be discounted as part of the Shi's cultural mix. Consider the following;



1) In the early 1800's, Southern African tribes suffered through the Mfecane, Lifaqane, or Difaqane. It was a period of great upheaval and turmoil, brought on by wars and famine in the region. Many Southern African peoples fled and some most certainly traveled in the present day Shi area and beyond, some as far north as Lake Victoria.





2) There is a remarkable resemblance between Shi knives and scabbards, to those of 19th century Shona and Bechwana/Tswana manufacture. Ironsmiths of both the Shi and Shona produced blades that were “ogee in section” or “blood grooved”.


3) Wooden milk pails from the period show an amazing similarity to Tswana/Bechwana wooden containers, including the choice of lightweight wood decorated with specific chevron designed pokerwork. 





4) Mention is made in 100 Peoples of Zaire and Their Sculpture that Shi plastic arts were somewhat limited to wooden containers and that they wore cowhide cloths. The Bechwana/Tswana peoples wooden objects were likewise very much limited to wooden containers and decorated knives. At the same time, most southern African peoples wore leather cloths, including the Bechwana/Tswana and Shona...





Shi wooden milk vessels were carved surprisingly thin. So thin that once it hand, you become startled to realize the extraordinary precision required to place the inner and outer circular forms so close to one another, one perfect surface nearly touching the other.





The precise "roundness" of their containers, made it possible for them to stand upright on sandy soil, after milk had been placed within, all thanks to amazing symmetry.




Related examples in the Biebuyck Family Collection


Shi milk containers include a spout, or an angled rim, which insured that milk was not lost when pouring. The effectiveness of this equaled that of a funnel. Those with structural supports (right) had the same spouts, which confirms the objects central market intention was for African usage.




A siphon or funnel example example is shown to the upper left and below.


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 The patina on this example is deep and the break which adds character is very old.


Many Shi items from the northern Lake Tanganyika region overlap with wooden items found in Western Zambia. The Nkoya people living there make use of related carved funnels.



Shi Milk Cup - Congo - Rwanda


Circa 1940's


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 Shi drank milk from wooden cups. This cup is a large example of goblet proportions.


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Shi Bowl or Milk Scoop


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This eloquently decorated Shi milk bowl or scoop was rediscovered in Belgium. We have not seen this form before and are certain it is quite special.


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We hope you have enjoyed this fine Shi presentation.










Galerie Ezakwantu

Southern African Tribal Art - African Art 


Central and Southern African Tribal Art


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African Adornment - African Axes - African Basketry - African Beadwork - African Beer Cups - African Beer Pots - Colonial Figures - African Containers - Contemporary African Art - African Costume - African Currency - African Dolls - African Figures - African Hair Combs - African Headdresses - African Wigs - African Headrests - African Neck Rests - African Masks - Masques Africains - African Meat Platters - African Milk Pails - Miscellaneous Objects African Musical Instruments - African Jewelry - African Jewellery - African Pipes - African Shields - African Snuff  Spoons - African Snuff Bottles - African Spoons - African Ladles - African Staffs - African Status Objects - African Stools - African Thrones - African Tobacco Bags - Central African Weapons - Southern African Weapons - North African Weapons - Other Weapons - Zulu Imbenge Pot Covers






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