Zande figure

Zande figure
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] ?Northern Bahr el Ghazal ?Western Bahr el Ghazal ?Warab ?El Buheyrat ?Western Equatoria
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1909
Wood Plant
Carved , Burnt , Pyroengraved Pokerwork
Ht = 210, head W = 52.6, th = 49.5; shoulders W = 54.7, th = 41.5 mm; hips W = 47.7 mm, th = 35.5 mm [RTS 13/10/2004].
158.7 g
Other Owners:
Collector unknown, presumably purchased by James T. Hooper in England then sold to the PRM on 21st February 1933 [RTS 15/12/2004].
PRM Source:
James Thomas Hooper
Purchased 21st February 1933
Collected Date:
Figure of a man, carved from a single piece of yellow wood (Pantone 729C), and standing with his head turned slightly to his right and the rest of his body facing to the front. The face is oval, and the back of the head rounded, with a carinated flange projecting from its base that represents the lower part of the hair. The front edge of the hair ends as a simple arc, with the forehead recessed below, and sloping gently down to the face. Here, two long arcing eyebrows have been burnt into the surface, while below the eyes and nose have been carved to stand out from it. The eyes are lentoid shaped and slope up slightly to their outer corners; pupils have been burnt black into their centres using a heated tool. The nose is broad, splaying out to its base, with two nostrils burnt in its underside; a small, horizontal, lentoid-shaped mouth has been burnt below. Two large, oval ears with a flattened outer face stand out on either side of the head. These and the face have been left the natural colour of the wood, while the hair and chin underside have been blackened (Pantone black 7C). The figure has a long, cylindrical neck below, intersected by the shoulders which project outwards from the torso as a horizontal bar, oval in plan view, and sloping down to either side. Short arms hang downwards from the ends of this, with a corrugated profile that ends in two broad, crudely shaped hands cut by v-shaped notches to form 5 digits on the left hand and 4 on the right. The shoulders and upper section of the arm, and the top of each hand has been burnt black, giving a striped effect. The man's torso continues below the shoulders in line with the neck, and is similarly cylindrical; this tapers out at its base to form a pronounced pelvic area with carinated hips. A conical penis extends from the flattened front of this area, with a small hole at the centre of the end, and two much smaller testicles have been shaped below, with a small hole burnt to represent the anus behind. Two short, slightly flexed legs extend below the pelvis, ending in two large wedge-shaped feet with flat undersides. Both have notches cut into the front to mark the toes; there are 5 on the left foot, and 3 on the right foot, although it is possible that one toe may have broken off at the end of this foot. The lower part of the figure, from waist to the edge of the feet, has been blackened. The figure is complete and intact but has 2 shallow cut marks across the front of the head, and what look like two freshly drilled holes in the underside of the feet, that may have been made by the collector or museum for mounting the object, rather than being part of its original design. These holes have turning marks on their inside walls. The surface of the wood is covered in carving marks, in the form of small facets and some vertically shaved areas. The figure has a weight of 158.7 grams, is 210 mm tall, 52.6 mm wide and 49.5 mm thick across the head, 54.7 mm wide and 41.5 mm thick across the shoulders, and 47.7 mm wide and 35.5 mm thick across the hips.

The original collector of this item is not recorded, although it is said to come from the Bahr el Ghazal region of the southern Sudan. It formed part of the collection of James T. Hooper, and was sold by him to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1933.

Although no cultural attribution is given, the style of the object suggests that it it could be Zande; cf 1933.76.4, of slightly different style but similar workmanship, and 1932.30.14-15. The style of the face is also similar to 2 carved Zande knife handles, 1930.86.62-3. For similar types of figures, see W. Fagg, 1965,
Tribes and Forms in African Art, p. 111 and E. Elisofon & W. Fagg, 1958 The Sculpture of Africa, figs 314-5.

This object is currently on display in the Court, case 150A.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [BIV, p. 177] - 1933. [insert] 76 [end insert] MR J.T. HOOPER 21. Feb. [insert] 4-5 [end insert] - [1 of] 2 carved wooden human figures with dark patches produced by burning, collected on the BAHR-EL-GAZAL, S. SUDAN, in 1909. £1-10-0 [total for items 1933.76.1-6] P[ai]d by cheque 21 Feb. 4-0-0 .

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 28/1/2004].

Related Documents File [James Thomas Hooper, Catalogue of Ethnographical Material ] - The museum has a photocopy of Hooper's accession and dispersal records, which are bound as two volumes and kept in a separate box file. Items are arranged according to Hooper's own numbering system. This object has not yet been able to be matched to an entry in either volume [RTS 21/11/2003].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Carved figure, BAHR-EL-GAZAL, S. SUDAN. Collected in 1909. Purchased 21.2.1933 (Hooper) [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object, RTS 13/10/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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