Bari bellows stick

Bari bellows stick
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Bahr el Jebel
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By January 1922
Animal Hide Skin , Pig Skin Animal? , Wood Plant , Plant Fibre , String
Carved , Stained , Perforated , Stitched , Knotted , Repaired (local) Wound
Total L = 830; handle diam = 13.3; membrane base L = 135, W = 130, Ht = 120 (as folded); pigskin disc L = 100, W = 100, th = 5; binding thongs W = 5 mm [RTS 4/7/2005].
297.4 g
Other Owners:
Collected by Charles Gabriel Seligman and his wife Brenda Zara Seligman during their visit to the Southern Sudan in late 1921 and early 1922. According to their personal diaries, they travelled south down the Bahr el Jebel to Malek, which they reached on
Field Collector:
Charles Gabriel Seligman & Brenda Zara Seligman
PRM Source:
Charles Gabriel Seligman
Donated July 1922
Collected Date:
January 1922
Part of a blacksmith's bellows, consisting of a wooden handle with hide membrane attached. This would fit inside the body of the bellows, with the stick being used to pump air in and out via a clay nozzle at the side or base. It consists of a soft, pliable circular piece of dark brown animal hide (Pantone 7532C), the edges of which have been folded up to create a soft bag-like body with slightly pleated sides. Four smaller hide discs have been stacked one above the other inside the centre of this 'bag', with a much thicker skin disc laid on top. This top piece is almost square in shape, has 4 shallow notches cut into one edge, and is probably made from pig skin. These pieces have been sewn around their edges to one another and onto the soft hide base using a length of hide thong, which has been tied off on the inside face. They have also been pierced through the centre with 4 holes, which have been used to attach the entire group to the handle. This has been cut from a length of segmented wood, stained reddish brown (Pantone 731C), and bound round its lower part with a narrow hide strip that then extends through the four holes to sew the handle onto the membrane, with the loose ends passing back through the hide and being tightly wrapped back around the handle base. The object is in itself complete, with some cracks developing along the handle; there are a few small holes in the membrane body, and a local repair using a woolly string. It has a weight of 297.4 grams and a total length of 830 mm. The handle has a diameter of 13.3 mm, the membrane has a base diameter of around 135 by 130 mm and a height of 120 mm; the internal pigskin disc measures 100 by 100 mm across and is 5 mm thick, while the binding thongs have a width of 5 mm.

Collected by Charles Gabriel Seligman and his wife Brenda Zara Seligman during their visit to the Southern Sudan in late 1921 and early 1922. According to their personal diaries, they travelled south down the Bahr el Jebel to Malek, which they reached on December 20th. They are likely to have encountered the Bari south of this point, in the province now known as Bahr el Jebel, with their route taking in Mongalla (26th December), Baria village (27th December), Juba (5th January 1922), Gondokoro (9th January) and the Bellinian rest house (11th-14th January), before heading southeastwards into the Torit area and Lotuko territory (based on information collected by Fran Larson from the unpublished diaries of C.G. and B.Z. Seligman, in the Archives of the London School of Economics, Seligman manuscripts, files 1/4/1 and 1/4/6).

For an drawing of Bari smiths at work, see Ratzel, F., 1894, Völkerkunde, (reproduced in R. Sieber, 1980, African Furniture & Household Objects, 40; the PRM photographs collection has a copy of this image as accession number 1998.171.21.1). Here we see a man using a hammerstone to work an iron object on a rock anvil, while his companion works a double bellows - consisting of 2 pots with hide covers, operated by 2 long sticks that seem to act as plungers, with the smith holding a stick in each hand. The stick and hide part of the apparatus is what we appear to have here in object 1922.25.7.
Powell-Cotton's description of blacksmithing amongst the Bari seems remarkably similar to this depiction: "In little hollows on the flat surface of a rock, they [women] would pound the filbet-like nuts of iron ore to powder. This was then carried to the smelting-pits near by, grass-roofed constructions shaped like the letter V and encircles in heaps of dross and charcoal. Here and there couples of men were hard at work forging hoes, one of them beating the mass of glowing metal into shape with two stones, to serve the purpose of hammer and anvil, while his companion plied the bellows. One of the blacksmiths told me that the iron ore is collected from the surface of the ground at a place ten days distant. When the hoes are completed they are taken over to the great chief of the Bari tribe, on the Uganda side, who buys them for flour" (P.H.G. Powell-Cotton 1907, "A Journey Through the Eastern Portion of the Congo Free State",
The Geographic Journal XXX no. 4, p. 373). Whitehead commented that the Bari do not mine iron ore, but collect it from the beds of local streams (C.S. & B.Z. Seligman, 1928, "The Bari", JRAI 58, 434).

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [VII, p. 46] - 1922 [pencil insert] 25 [end insert] Dr C.G. SELIGMAN , F.R.S., Court Leys, Toot Baldon, Oxon. July - Specimens collected by himself during 1922, viz: 1922.311 [pencil insert] 7 [end insert] - Hide membrane & stick from blacksmith's bellows, BARI, UPPER NILE.
Additional Accession Book Entry [VII, p. 25 top, in pencil] - blue numbers not valid & not on specimens. Inserted by an assistant in error.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 12/2/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan. BARI tribe. Hide membrane and stick, part of blacksmith's bellows. Coll. C.G. Seligman 1922. 1922.25.7 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 4/7/2005].

Written on object - Membrane and stick of blacksmiths bellows, BARI, UPPER NILE. Pres. by Dr. C.G. Seligman, 1922 [RTS 4/7/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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