Tusk with multiple scenes in relief

Kongo peoples
19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

Life on the Loango Coast in the late 19th century is recorded on a spiral that winds around this tusk from the base to the tip. Rendered naturalistically, the figures include men in wrapper skirts, some with European-style jackets and hats; a caravan of porters carrying loads on their heads; a man carried in a hammock; African captives in chains; and a bald man at the top. Tusks usually do not tell a continuous story but depict subjects selected by the patron—foreign or African. This one shows the patron traveling along the "coil of life." Caravans of trade goods and captives are the source of this individual's wealth. His journey ends at the top of the tusk where he is reclining in the hammock rather than sitting African-fashion; now as a bald, deceased elder, he has entered the realm of the ancestors, escorted by two businessmen.

Adapted from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.