Rek Dinka spindle

Rek Dinka spindle
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1929.32.1 .1 .2
[Southern Sudan] Warab Meshra'er Rek
Cultural Group:
Rek Dinka
Date Made:
By 1926
Wood Plant , Gourd Plant , Cotton Yarn Plant
Carved , Perforated , Wound , Plaited
1929.32.1.1: L = 625 mm, diam lower body = 14.5 to 15 mm; cord W = 2.3 mm. 1929.32.1.2: L = 265 mm, W body = 5.7 mm; top whorl L = 61.7, W = 59, th = 4.4 mm; lower whorl L = 34, W = 33.6, th = 6 mm [RTS 9/9/2004].
133.0 g
Other Owners:
Collected by Geoffrey Wrench Titherington (incorrectly called E.S. Titherington in accession book and RDF) in 1926 and given to Grace Mary Crowfoot [RTS 10/8/2004].
Field Collector:
Geoffrey Wrench Titherington [name given incorrectly in records as E.S. Titherington].
PRM Source:
John Winter Crowfoot
Donated September 1929
Collected Date:
By 1926
Cord making apparatus consisting of a spindle with whorl and thread attached [.2] and a forked stick onto which the spun yarn is wound and plaited to make cord [.1]. 1929.32.1.2 consists of a wooden spindle carved to have a sub-rectangular section at the top, that gradually tapers to its lower body where the section has become round, ending in a point. The top of the shaft has been shaped by cutting two deep notches in either side; these meet at the centre of the body on both front and back faces, creating a decorative 'v' shape. This spindle is yellowish brown in colour (Pantone 7510C). 54 mm down from the top, there is a large flat sided disc made of dark brown wood (Pantone 7533C), with a series of notches cut into its outer edge, and a small hole in the centre that has been used to mount it onto the spindle. The body of this disc has warped slightly. There is a second, smaller disc positioned 72 mm below, made from a piece of cut-down gourd with a dark reddish brown outer surface (Pantone 4625C). The edges of this have been roughly chipped to shape and the centre pierced. This disc would have functioned as a spindle whorl.

Between the two discs, a large quantity of white cotton yarn has been wound around the spindle shaft, with a small section of this also looping up and around the spindle shaft just above the notched disc, using the notches to hold it in place. This yarn is made up of triple strands (3 ply), and one end of it extends from the spindle body to the top of forked stick 1929.32.1.1. This second part of the apparatus was used as a support for turning the yarn into cord. It consists of a wooden branch with its surface bark removed, with a rounded basal end, then a straight body that forks naturally into two parts with flat ends at the top. Two rectangular recesses have been cut into the body near the tips of each end. There are several irregularities across the surface of the stick due to the natural shape of the parent piece of wood, including several knots where smaller twigs have been removed. This is a yellowish brown colour (Pantone 7509C). Some areas near the lower part of the shaft appear to have been burnt, perhaps as a result of using fire to remove some of these twigs.

Two loops of yarn have been hung from the recessed areas of the forked end - double stranded on one side, triple stranded on the other. These meet at the centre between the forks, where they are joined at the top by the thread coming from the spindle; below, this turns into a length of plaited cord that is square in section. The trailing end of this cord has been tied once around the shaft of the stick, just below the forked section, then wound loosely around the rest of the body; it ends in a knot. This is a pale yellowish cream colour (Pantone 7401C). Both parts of the object appear to be complete, and have a total weight of 133 grams. The spindle is 265 mm long and has a width at the top of 8.5 mm, and a width just below the spindle of 5.7 mm; the top notched disc is 61.7 mm long, 59 mm wide and 4.4 mm thick; the lower gourd disc measures 34 by 33.6 mm and is 6 mm thick. The forked stick is 625 mm long, with the lower body having a diameter of 14.5 to 15 mm. The plaited cord is 2.3 mm wide.

Collected by Geoffrey Wrench Titherington in 1926; Titherington spent time amongst the Rek Dinka,
photographing and recording their customs (see "The Raik Dinka of Bahr El Ghazal Province", Sudan Notes and Records 10, 1927). He gave this spindle to Grace Mary Crowfoot, who had a strong interest in spinning and weaving technology; she donated it to the Museum in September 1929.

The museum also has a spindle with cotton thread in place from Juba, attributed to the Bari (see 1940.7.023); for a photograph depicting a Moru man using a spindle, see H.A. Bernatzik, 1929,
Zwischen Weissem Nil und Belgisch-Kongo , fig. 99.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [Donations VIII, p. 304] - [insert, pencil] 32 [end insert] J.W. CROWFOOT , Esq. The Old House, Geldeston, Beccles. Sept. [insert, pencil] 1 [end insert] - Forked stick upon which square-plaited cord is made, by the loop-over technique; with cord partly made and spindle upon which the yarn is spun and wound. REK DINKA of the MESHRA-EL-REK, N. BAHR-EL-GAZAL district, E. SUDAN. Collected by Major E.S. Titherington [sic], 1926.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 6/4/2004].

Related Documents File - Excerpt from letter from Grace M. Crowfoot dated 28 September, 1929: I am sending by Dorothy an apparatus for making string which I brought back from the Bahr el Ghazal Province three years ago. It is used by the Rek Dinka and was given to me by Major E. S. [sic] Titherington then in charge of that district. I got a native to show me how it was used at Masha el Rek , a fantastical place at the north end of the B. L. G. province, and wrote down the description of the frame[? illegible], bar[? illegible] class[? illegible], I cannot find it now. I learnt it effectively at the time to make about an inch of string and then got into a muddle at the first moment there are too many threads on each fork. So far as I can remember [? illegible word] only to the two and you draw them both over the top one to make string, but I am not clear at [rest of sentence illegible].' [GI 26/11/2001].

Written on object - Apparatus for making square-plaited cord by the loop-over technique. REK DINKA, MESHRA-EL-REK, N. BAHR EL-GHAZAL. SUDAN, 1926. d.d. J.W. Crowfoot, 1929 [RTS 9/9/2004].

Publication History:
This object is mentioned by A.A. Blackman, who comments that the source town was a place where Arab and Dinka activity coincided (1956, The Material Culture of the Nilotic Tribes of East Africa, B.Litt Thesis, p. 7) [RTS 2/9/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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