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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 Musical Instruments


 Instruments de Musique Africains - Afrikanische Musikinstrument










Ngbaka Harp - Congo DRC


M'Bala - Bouaka - Buaka - Bwaka - Harp


Importante Harpe Ngbaka




Ngbaka Harp - circa 1950


The Ngbaka live in the far north west of Congo. They migrated there from Lake Tchad (Lke Chad) around 1920. They are well known for their anthropomorphic harps. The example above and below is exceptional. It depicts the Ngbaka central forehead knobs, scarification that Casimir Zagourski photographed during the period. 





The large figure stands at 49 cms. Shoulder points measure + - 18 cms across. A single hard fibre cord remains.





The Ngbaka harp is steeped in historical trade history.  The resonator cover tin was once part of a vegetable oil container imported from East Africa. The colonial nails are also old and probably originated in Belgium.





Hard fibre cord decorates each ear, one with an attached Queen Elizabeth The Second medallion. Rear resonator holes are of different diameters, each burned separately with an ironsmiths hot poker. A copper ring adorns the nose (below).





This figurative harp is adorned with nearly Luba stylized coffee bean eyes, so much so that it may be suggested the artist travelled from one region to the other.





Additional images of this and other objects are available on request.




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Rare East African Musical Instrument


Zigua 'or related' Fiddle / Chordophone





Above, an East African fiddle commonly called Zeze - Izeze and / or Endingidi. Zeze were played with a bow, a small wooden stick, or plucked with the fingers. The object was collected in the 1930's, then found its way to the collection of Joan Hoather, the owner of Gainsboraugh Galleries at the Carlton Centre - Johannesburg. Joan Hoather bequeathed this and other early collected objects to her friend Mrs M. Olivier.




                      Tervuren Exhibition 1987                    Afrikanische Saiten-Instrumente                             Tervuren Exhibition 1987


The images above show zeze's played by traditional musicians. Those to the left and far right were part of a musical exhibition held at Musée Royal de l'Afrique at Tervuren during 1987. The centre image appears on page 122 in Afrikanische Saiten-Instrumente. Attention is drawn to an absence of figurative examples found in these illustrations. Page 47 of 'The Traditional Musical Instruments of Tanzania' records: In some areas the neck end can be beautifully carved in different shapes. In Musical competitions in Shinyanga and Ukerewe the beauty of the instrument is taken into consideration, since listeners are attracted not only by good playing, but also by the unusual shaping of the instruments as well as the special dress of the musicians.




Our zeze fiddle is adorned with a female finial. It was played with a resonator, most likely a calabash (see below). It stands at 66 centimetres tall and reveals an old deep set patina. The lead or aluminium inlayed eyes are not uncommon in early collected East African figurative sculpture, however the addition of inlayed teeth with a single nose plug is unheard of.





Non figurative Zezi - The Traditional Musical Instruments of Tanzania - Page 45


Marc Leo Felix describes zizi fiddles as follows in  Mwana Hiti page 328: This instrument of Near Eastern origin is played by striking it with a short bow. It is usually played by professional traveling musicians who go from village to village to perform at ceremonies. These instruments are found mainly among the people living near the coast such as the Doë and Kwere, but the Zaramo, Kaguru, and Luguru also have a few examples. On page 308 he writes of a related object: It was played during rituals and festivities, as well as to accompany the songs sung in praise of leaders. It is found among the peoples living nearest to the coast. It can be plucked or struck, though few people know how to play it, perhaps because of its rarity.




                                          MWANA HITI - Page 307                                       East African Zeze


In addition to the Doë, Kwere, Zaramo, Kaguru, and Luguru tribes mentioned, the Kahe, Nyamwezi and groups reaching well into Rwanda also enjoyed the entertainment of the zeze. We feel our example may be Zegua as per Plate 132 (above left), falling within Marc Felix's core area. Both objects display short arms - inlayed eyes - exaggerated ears - small nose - slightly indented facial features and are made of hard black wood.




                          MWANA HITI - Page 332                    Ostafrikanische Plastik - Plate 216              Ostafrikanische Plastik - Plate 265


The age and rarity of zeze's allows for a perished calabash, as most East African zeze fiddles did not survive. Those that did are for the most part incomplete, as shown above.





Three well worn groves appear to the rear of the main staff. Beads further down date to 1920 or before (Venetian) and were set into an indented carved section that anchors them to a fixed position. Next to this is an old wooden plug meant to support the perished resonator.


Additional images of this and other objects are available on request.




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Thumb Piano - Lekembe - Mbira


Western Zambia - Angola - DRC - Botswana





Lekembe and Mbira, are generic names for several African thumb pianos or lamellophones. Tongues or keys are made of wood, iron or bamboo. In South Africa thumb pianos are called kalinda or kalimba and sometimes sansa. The object on offer is typical of those used in south western Congo, western Zambia and large swaths of Angola. The object came to us from an estate sale which included mostly southern African beaded objects dating to the 1940's. It measures + - 3.5 x 16 x 26 centimetres and produces an excellent sound.





                   Old Man                            Girl playing similar Lekembe - Circa 1950                            Another




In south western Congo, western Zambia and much of Angola, a thumb piano is called Casagi, Lekembe and Sanza. Marie Louise Bastin referred to related examples in Angola as Lungandu. The carved incised face is a representation of an ancestral initiation mask. Hornet's wax was added to seal the carved compartment (image above right).








This thumb piano was purchased in Portugal from a colonial collection, the context confirming a collection date of early 1960's or before.  It measures + - 4 x 14 x 24.5 centimetres.





Two generations of carvings appear on the lower face (and sides) of the Sanza thumb piano. An original 'cowrie' shape (money / currency) form appears boldly on the lower base. Looking closely at the carving lines one sees that the carnivorous water tortoise (head / tail) was over-carved on original horizontal lines, confirming the large cowrie was overtaken by a secondary carver.




Two lines of five cowries were carved on the reverse / bottom. At the top are two rows of chevron motif patterns are found.






The side panels of the resonator look new, but they are in excess of fifty year of  age, having been replaced about the time of collection - (prior to the Angolan war). We opened one to discover the source of the internal rattle. Two pieces of thick bottle glass and four Portuguese 50 centavo coins dated 1950  were found.




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African Rattles - Anklets


Bushman - San - Swazi - Venda - Chokwe


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Southern African cultures collect cocoons after the moths have emerged. They are then partly filled with small stones and stitched onto fiber or leather. This anklet is from Southern African with probable origins being Swazi, Venda or Zulu peoples. The Swazi, Venda and Zulu's utilize Argema mimosae cocoons to make their anklets, whereas the San or Bushmen used Gonometa cocoons called xododzi. We are unable to identify this cocoon species, but can confirm they are not strung together in the double cord San - Bushman manner.



Chokwe - Luchazi - Mbunda - Luvale


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This pair of anklets were made from the dried fruit of the oncoba spinosa tree. Snuff bottles, hand rattles and tinderbox containers were also made from the fruit called by some - Daza.  One half of the pair has three lines of fruit while the other remains with two.






Barbara Tyrrell - Pete Jurgans - Western Zambia - 1949




Manuel Jordan - Marc Leo Felix - Makishi Lya Zambia


Costumes representing ancestors were danced at Chokwe (and related peoples) boys circumcision celebrations called Mukanda. Anklets  made of the Daza fruit were worn on the lower legs.




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Central and Southern African Tribal Art


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