Divining object (itombwa): animal form

Kuba peoples
19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

Carved in the form of a crocodile, this instrument was used to reveal the cause of misfortune or solutions to problems. Warthogs, lizards, and dogs are other animals considered essential to the efficacy of the oracle in accomplishing its goal. The sides of the animal are decorated with carefully carved patterns and the back is purposefully flat. The wooden disk is covered with basketry.

An individual who suffered a misfortune of any kind sought help from a diviner. The diviner wet the disk and rubbed it along the animal's flat back while he repeated a series of possible causes of the client's misfortune. The answer was revealed when the disk stopped moving.

Excerpt from

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