Bongo stool

Bongo stool
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?On or before 1858
Wood Plant , Plant Fibre
Carved , Polished , ?Stained , Twisted , Tied
Ht = 137 mm, seat L = 210, W = 146, th = 5 mm; foot base L = 60, W = 26 mm; diam cords = 3.3 and 4.5 mm [RTS 26/8/2004].
544.4 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Obtained by John Petherick in the Sudan in 1858 and shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently obtained by Pitt Rivers, perhaps via auction, as Petherick is known to have auctioned some of his collection through Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 2
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
Stool carved from a single piece of wood and probably intended to be zoomorphic in form, perhaps imitating a turtle. This consists of an oval seat with flat sides and underside, and with an upper surface that is convex across its width and concave along its length. This has had notches have been cut into the centre of either end, with a carved flat-sided lug projecting and hanging down from the back notch - probably representing an animal's tail - and a more substantial handle projecting from the front one, perhaps a stylised animal's neck and head. Both are somewhat angular; the handle has a flat sided lug at its base, then a round-sectioned arm with a ridge running along the top projecting from this at right angles before splaying out to form the 'head', which has a flat, square end. The remnants of two plant fibre cords have been tied around the handle. Both are made of two strands of gathered plant fibres twisted together; the smaller cord is a orange brown colour (Pantone 7511C) with a diameter of 3.3 mm, while the thicker cord is a reddish brown colour (Pantone 7516C) and has a diameter of 4.5 mm. The stool has four legs that extend from the underside of the stool. These are carved as two pairs, joined along their tops by a semicircular strut. Each leg splays outwards, with a convex outer face and concave inner face, ending in short 'feet' made of convex flat-sided lugs with flat, teardrop shaped undersides. The stool is nearly complete, with some damage to the head, tail and one foot; it is currently a dark brown colour on the surface (Pantone 7533C), and a lighter yellow colour underneath on some of the damaged areas (Pantone 7509C). The stool is 137 mm tall and has a weight of 544.4 grams. The seat is 210 mm long, 146 mm wide and 5 mm thick; the base of each foot is 60 mm long and 26 mm wide.

This object is said to have been collected in 1858; in that year Petherick led a trading expedition through Bongo territory, an account of which is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa; he refers to this group as the Dor. The expedition entered Bongo territory on January 25, 1858, visiting villages called Djau, Kurkur, Maeha, Mura, Umbura, Modocunga, Miha, Nearhe, Gutu, Mungela, Ombelambe and Lungo. Later in February they passed back through the Bongo villages of Djamaga and Lungo again. T his material was shipped back to England in 1859 and subsequently obtained by Pitt Rivers, most probably at the auction of Petherick's material conducted by Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 27th June 1862 (see the Catalogue of the very interesting collection of arms and implements of war, husbandry, and the chase, and articles of costume and domestic use, procured during several expeditions up the White Nile, Bahr-il-Gazal, and among the various tribes of the country, to the cannibal Neam Nam territory on the Equator, by John Petherick, Esq., H.M. Consul, Khartoum, Soudan ). Several lots in this auction contained Bongo stools (lots 10, 11, 16, 72, 75, 76). Pitt Rivers sent this object to Bethnal Green Museum for display, as part of the first batch of objects sent there, probably in 1874. This object was listed in the Delivery Catalogue as having been transferred from South Kensington Museum in 1884.

For stools of similar design, with splaying feet and projections at either end, see Schweinfurth 1875,
Artes Africanae pl. IV nos 1 and 4, also attributed to the Bongo. He says that the Bongo usually make these 'of the beautiful chestnut-brown wood of the 'Göl' tree ... which is susceptible of a splendid polish'. He gives the Latin name of this tree as Prosopis oblonga according to his 1875 publication, but Prosopis lanceolata, in his 1873 book. These stools are said to have been found in every household, but were used only by women; they were called hegba (G. Schweinfurth, 1873, The Heart of Africa Vol. I, p. 283). Evans-Pritchard added that the Bongo had ceased making these stools when he encountered them, in the 1920's, but that Rumbek Jurs of both sexes were still using them, usually as neck rests (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1929, "The Bongo", Sudan Notes and Records XII no. I, p. 58).

Rachael Sparks 23/08/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book IV entry [p. 2] [insert] 1884.3 [end insert] HEAD-RESTS & STOOLS [insert] 16 [end insert] - 2917 - Wooden saddle-topped stool [?& headrest], carved of one piece, with 4 curved & footed legs an incurved 'tail' and 'neck' with terminal knob. DOR C. AFRICA. Petherick Coll. 1858. (Black 1856).
Additional Accession Book IV Entry [page opposite 2] - [Drawing showing stool in profile].
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 195] [insert] 1884.3.16 [end insert]. Animal shaped saddle-backed stool [Drawing] DOR. C[ENTRAL]. AFRICA. 1858 (P.R. 2917) black (1856). [p. 197] [insert] BONGO is tribe's name for itself. They are called DOR by neighbours [end insert, by BB].
Black book entry [p. 80]- Wooden Pillows . C[ase] 73. 1856. Wooden chair, Dor tribe, Central Africa. Obt'd by Consul Petherick in 1858. (2917).
Delivery Catalogue I entry [p. 139] - Miscellaneous objects [insert] 1884.3.16 [end insert] Chair wood (Central Africa) 1856. 2917 [screen?] 105, Cases 156 157.
Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 6/4/2004].
Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Head-rest, DOR tribe, CENT. AFRICA. Obtd by Consul Petherick, 1858. Pitt-Rivers coll. 1856-2917. [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object RTS 18/8/2004].
Written on object -

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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