Baka flute

Baka flute
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Western Equatoria Maridi District
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1930
Animal Horn , Resin Plant?
Carved , Hollowed , Perforated
L = 177, embouchure exterior L = 29.8, W = 25.5, interior diameter = 27 by 21 mm; diam finger-holes = 5, diam suspension hole = 4 mm [RTS 7/12/2004].
20.9 g
Other Owners:
Purchased from Edward Evans-Pritchard for the PRM by Henry Balfour on 31 December 1930, as part of a group of objects, total cost 25.
Field Collector:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
PRM Source:
Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Purchased 31 December 1930
Collected Date:
Small notched end-blown flute carved from a slightly translucent to opaque brown piece of animal horn (Pantone 463C to black 7C), and then hollowed out. The embouchure has been cut to form concave front and back edges, rising to points at either side; just inside the lip at these points there are traces of a dark brown resinous substance that has been added to narrow the embouchure and guide the breath. The embouchure itself is a distorted lentoid shape in plan view. Below this, the body follows the natural curvature of the horn, which has very slight surface ribbing around its upper part but has become smooth by the base, where it tapers to a sharp point that is round in section. 3 finger-holes have been cut into the side, on the slightly concave face, and show signs of wear. The lower one has been bored at an angle, and there are some signs that the holes may have been adjusted during manufacture to achieve the correct sound. Just above the tip, another hole has been bored to pass right through the object, which is solid at this point; this was presumably intended for some kind of carrying or suspension loop. The object is complete and intact, although some of the resin fill may have been lost on one side. It has a weight of 20.9 grams, and is 177 mm long. The embouchure measures 29.8 by 25.5 mm across its outside edges, and has an internal diameter of 27 by 21 mm, while the finger-holes have a diameter of 5 mm and the suspension hole has a diameter of 4 mm.

Collected by E.E. Evans-Pritchard in the period between 1926 and 1930, while conducting fieldwork in the Southern Sudan
). It came from the district of Meridi, which is located in the modern administrative district of Western Equatoria. The Baka referred to by Evans-Pritchard are the Central Sudanic group, not the Baka Pygmies of Congo and elsewhere. They are linguistically related to the Bongo and Moru Kodo, and inhabit areas of the Meridi and Yei districts (L.F. Nalder ed., 1937, A Tribal Survey of Mongalla Province, p. 185-6)

This can be described as a 'stopped' flute, as the body is not open ended at its base (compare this to examples such as 1934.8.87, which has a finger-hole at its distal end).

This object is currently on display in the Court, case 85A.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [BIV, p. 138] - 1930 [insert] 86 [end insert] E.E. EVANS PRITCHARD 31 Dec. Specimens collected by himself in the EASTERN SUDAN, etc. [...] [p. 139a, insert] 57-58 [end insert] - [1 of] 2 Notched whistles (ivory & horn) with three stops. BAKA tribe, MERIDI district. [...] [Base of p. 139, total of items 1930.86.1-65] - P[ai]d by cheque 31 Dec £ 25-0-0 .
Added Accession Book Entry [page opposite 138] - 1930.86 See Related Documents File for letter from Henry Balfour to Evans-Pritchard concerning the purchase of this collection. [p. 139a] - 1930.86.58 No. given HLR. L[ength] = 17.2 cms.

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - BAKA - Meridi dist. [ink insert] 1930.86.58 [end insert] / bgile (Lobo = gbnok) [hor...?] [brown luggage tag, tied to object]. Notched whistle, BAKA tribe, MERIDI dist. E. CENT. AFRICA. Evans-Pritchard coll. Pur. 31-12-1930 [paper label stuck to side of object, RTS 6/12/2004].

Related Documents File - This contains a letter from Balfour to Evans-Pritchard, dated 31 December 1930 that specifies the objects which he would like to purchase for the Pitt Rivers Museum, and suggests a price of £25, which was one quarter of his annual budget. The list matches the objects ultimately accessioned quite closely. 1930.86.61 appears on his list as one of "2 whistles (Baka)". This letter also mentions rejecting a number of items; these may relate to an undated list in the file of 48 objects, which do not seem to match accessioned material.
RDF 1930.86 also contains a letter from Evans-Pritchard to Mr. Malcolm dated 12 December 1930, offering him some 81 Zande and Nuer objects. As Malcolm was curator of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, it seems unlikely that these objects were ever sent to the Pitt Rivers Museum and this letter is only useful as background for Evans-Pritchard's attritudes to the intended future use of his material, and as evidence for the temporary storage of these objects in Professor Seligman's office in the London School of Economics at the time [RTS 18/8/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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