Lango sandal

Lango sandal
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
North of Lake Kyoga
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1925
Pig Skin Animal , Animal Hide Skin , Iron Metal
Perforated , Knotted , Tied , Forged (Metal) , Hammered , Bent
L = 250, W sole = 101.4, Ht = 55; th sole = 8 (at edge), ankle straps W = 10, double th = 3 mm [RTS 17/5/2005].
224.2 g
Local Name:
lamo war
Other Owners:
Jack Herbert Driberg
Field Collector:
Jack Herbert Driberg
PRM Source:
Jack Herbert Driberg
Donated 1925
Collected Date:
By 1925
Sandal consisting of a sole made from a thick piece of dark brown pigskin, used with the hairy side turned upwards (Pantone black 4C). This has been cut with a convex front and back and straight sides that taper in to an open-backed heel with 2 almost triangular flaps turning up on either side. A large hole has been cut near the top of each flap, and a short vertical hide loop attached. This, and the remaining hide elements are made from much thinner pieces of skin than the sole. At the front of the sandal, an iron bar has been pushed through sole to form a shallow loop that anchors the toe dividing strap. This strap has been knotted around the iron loop, then extends back towards the heel, where it passes through the perforated ends of the side straps and is knotted, before continuing to one side of the shoe where the loose end is secured. The straps themselves are made from 2 slightly wider hide strips, pierced at either end, then lain one over the other to make a double thickness. This was then fitted over the toe strap and bent back towards the triangular heel flap, where the doubled pair loops through the hole, back over itself then through the separate side loop before passing around the heel area, then back through the hole on the opposite side before rejoining the toe strap. The object is complete, but roughly finished, particularly on the underside. There is some burnish to the upper surface suggesting wear, and traces of red ochre around the front edges. It has a weight of 224.2 grams and is 250 mm long, 101.4 mm wide and 55 mm high. The sole has an edge thickness of 8 mm, while the doubled ankle straps are 10 mm wide and 3 mm thick.

Collected by Jack Herbert Driberg in Uganda, North of Lake Kyoga, and donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1925.

Sandals like this were worn, and also used in divination. They are associated with the term
lamo war, which would seem to refer to how these sandals were used rather than being their specific name; thus in his Lango-English dictionary, Driberg defines the term: ' lam’o : to invoke, adjure, consecrate. Kot, alam’i ichwe , rain, I invoke thee to fall; lamo war , to take the auspices by sandals' (J.H. Driberg, 1923, The Lango, p. 390). Driberg mentions this use of sandals for taking the auspices before a hunt, a battle, or before going on a journey (op.cit. pp 111-113, 118, 263). He adds that this kind of divination “is not open to women” (although see below, where a woman diviner carries out the procedure). “... an unlucky fall of the sandals is not necessarily conclusive, the inquirer persisting in the throws until a good omen is forthcoming; but should the omen persistently remain bad after several throws the prediction is accepted, and in extreme cases the projected journey is postponed. The Lango sandal is of very primitive structure, consisting of a sole with a slightly raised pad at the back of the heel. At the toe and on each side are small lapels, through which laces are inserted joining up the lapels with the heel pad, the lace of the toe lapel passing between the wearer's big and first toes. To take the omens the sandals are held together sole to sole, and toe to toe, by the inner edges, if they belong to the man making the inquiry; but if they are borrowed, the thrower holds them by the outer edges. Having thus grasped the sandals, the inquirer throws them up in the air, imparting a twisting motion by a turn of his wrist, and the omens are read by their respective positions on falling to the ground. No skill is required for reading the omens, as the interpretations are all stereotyped, and no variation has been detected anywhere in the tribe” (op.cit. p. 264). Driberg goes on to illustrate the different positions in which the sandals might fall, and their meanings, including 'hunting will be safe', 'you will kill a giraffe', 'rain', 'a friend will bring you good news,' 'someone will give you a goat', and 'someone will present you with a cow, but it will break loose and go back to its original owner' (op.cit. pp 264-267).

Hayley gives the term for divining by the use of sandals as
lamo amuk; he describes a female ajwaka called Akelo who would throw sandals in the air and then read their position they assumed on the ground (T.T.S Hayley, 1947, The Anatomy of Lango Religion and Groups, p. 25, 167, 194).

Sandals of somewhat similar design were also worn by the Acholi; see R. Boccassino, 1964, "Contributo allo studio dell’ ergologia delle popolazioni Nilotiche e Nilo-camitche. Parte quarta. Il vestito, il tatuaggio, le deformazioni del corpo, gli ornamenti e la circoncisione",
Annali Lateranensi XXVIII, fig. 14, currently in the Museo Preistorico ed Etnografico 'Lugi Pignorini', Rome, accession number 96025.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [VII, p. 189] - 1925 [pencil insert] 14 [end insert] J.H. DRIBERG , Esq. c/o the Postmaster, Khartoum. Specimens collected by himself among the LANGO tribe in the UGANDA PROTECTORATE, N. of LAKE KIOGA. Viz: [...] 1925.199 [pencil insert] 3 [end insert] - Pig-skin sandal, lamo war ; these sandals are also used in divination.
Additional Accession Book Entry [VII, p. 25 top, in pencil] - blue numbers not valid & not on specimens. Inserted by an assistant in error.

Detailed Footwear Card Catalogue entry - Group: Footgear Division: Sandals Class: Hide Description: Pigskin sandal cut with a piece at the side of the heel which are turned up and perforated to take thongs from the toe strap and round the heel back. The to [sic - toe?] strap is fixed with a piece of iron bent round under the sole. The hairy side is uppermost and it is shaped for the left foot. In taking omen's a pair of sandals held sole to sole is [sic] thrown into the air, divination according to their relative positions on the ground as they fall. Length c 25 cm People: Lango tribe Locality: Uganda Prot N of Lake Kioga Lamo war How Acquired: Pres by JH Driberg 1925 references: The Lango p. 264 [Drawing].

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribal catalogue card [RTS 24/5/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - Pig-skin sandal, lamo war . LANGO ribe, UGANDA PROT. (N. of L. KIOGA). Pres. by J.H. Driberg, 1925. For taking omens a pair of sandals held sole to sole is thrown in the air, divination is according to their relative positions on the ground as they fall. v. "The Lango", p. 264 [rectangular, metal edged tag, tied to object; RTS 14/4/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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