Didinga flute

Didinga flute
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1940.7.071 .1
[Southern Sudan] Eastern Equatoria Didinga Hills Chukudum
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1940
Animal Leather Skin , Animal Horn , Brass Metal , Ochre
Carved , Hollowed , Covered , Stitched , Plaited , Hammered Bent Inlaid Decorated
L = 255, W embouchure ext. = 33.5, finger-hole diam ext. = 6.2, diam int. = 4; Lid L = 52.4, W = 38.6, Ht = 22.8; strap L = 440, W = 10, th = 9.5; brass ring W = 11, th = 1.5 mm [RTS 7/3/2005].
[.1] 164.9 g; [.1+ .2] 166.4 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Samuel P. Powell
Field Collector:
Samuel P. Powell
PRM Source:
Samuel P. Powell
Loaned 1940
Collected Date:
By 1940
Notched end-blown flute carved from the tip of dark brown animal horn and hollowed out (Pantone black 7C). This consists of a lentoid embouchure, notched markedly on one side and only slightly on the other. Small amounts of a resinous material have been added inside the mouth, on either peaked side, to narrow the aperture. The body curves and twists slightly below, following the natural shape of the horn, tapering to a narrow distal end with a circular finger-hole cut in its centre. The upper body has been covered with a tight fitting rectangular piece of leather, the sides drawn together and stitched through to form a raised seam down one side. This may have been done using a length of hide cord, but it is not clear as the stitches are obscured by dirt and grease. This sheath runs right up to the embouchure lip. The surface of the hide has been decorated with a series of impressed dots, inlaid with red ochre or pigment (Pantone 483C to 484C). A separate piece of yellowish brown hide has been fitted over the mouth of the instrument to make a lid (Pantone 7508C). This has been moulded to the shape of the mouth and was designed to extend down the sides of the body; it has since distorted slightly in shape and no longer fits. A series of light incisions have been cut around the upper edge of this. A narrow strip of hide extends from the lid, running down the side of the seam and fitting through a couple of suspension rings that keep it, and its lid, in place. The upper of these 2 rings is made from a hide strip core, wound round with a narrow thong, and has been pushed through the seam body to secure it. A thick plaited leather carrying strap has been doubled up, and passes through this ring to form a carrying loop. This strap is made of 3 flat strips, perforated along their lengths and plaited through one another, to form a solid cord with square section. At their base, they pass through a second bound leather ring, that originally could be moved up and down the cord body; below this, their ends are left loose to form a fringe; this has been thickened by threading 5 to 6 short leather strips through the group on either side. These additional strips have been tooled to give them a textured surface on one side. A small brass ring has also been attached to the carrying strap, just below the second, movable binding loop. The flute contained a cleaning feather (see 1940.7.071.2). The object is complete and intact. It has a weight of 166.4 grams. The lid is 52.4 mm long, 38.6 mm wide and 22.8 mm deep. The horn body is 255 mm long, and has an embouchure width of 33.5 mm (the length is obscured by the lid and cannot be measured), while the finger-hole has an external diameter of 6.2 mm and an internal diameter of 4 mm. The carrying strap is 440 mm long, in its current position, 10 mm wide and 9.5 mm thick; the brass ring is 11 mm wide and 1.5 mm thick.

Bought by Samuel P. Powell at Chukudum, west of the Didinga mountains, and given on loan to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1940.

This type of flute is known as
liri; According to Powell, each man has a distinctive call, that allows him to be identified as he approaches. The flutes are blown while going along, especially when starting off, and again arriving at one's destination. This description is very similar to Driberg's account of how the Lango use their flutes: " Every man has his own whistle motif ( nying, or name, of bilo ), which may be memorised by a few words, a catch or phrase of a private song, much in the same way as the bugle calls in the British Army are memorised by words of a more or less fanciful nature. The motif may not be played by anyone else, and an infringement of this rule will certainly cause a violent quarrel, and may even lead to bloodshed. Nor is this surprising when it is remembered that a man blows his whistle motif in war and hunting to signify that he has obtained a kill, and that it is his method of revealing his presence or identity from a distance to his beloved, his family, and intimates" (J.H. Driberg, 1923, The Lango, 124-125).

This object comes from the Didinga, a group that are found mainly in southern Sudan (Didinga hill area and north of Nagishot) and in North Eastern Uganda; their language has similarities to the Longarim and Murle ( http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=DID ). For the cleaning feather associated with it, see 1940.7.071.2.

Rachael Sparks 19/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [Loans II, p. 308] - ESTATE OF S.P. POWELL, C/O N.H. HASLAM, Esq. Manager, Westminster Bank, Stony Stratford, Bucks. Collected by himself. Data from his labels and notes. [p. 312] From the DIDIGNA (DODINGA) tribe, ANGLO-EGYPTIAN SUDAN (southern border). 1940.7.071 - Hunting horn, with plaited leather strap.

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

Related Documents File - Appears on undated typed list: "Didinga hunting horn". List is annotated by hand on back: "List of Curios" and "Far from complete" [RTS 16/12/2003].

Pre-PRM label - Didinga Hunting horn. Called Liri. Bought Chukudum, W of Didinga mountains. Carriers blow these horns as they go along. Especially starting and arriving at one's destination. Every man's horn has a different note as his friends know of his approach as when he blows [handwritten in ink on scrap of paper, found inside horn, now in RDF file; RTS 7/3/2005].

Pitt Rivers Museum label
- Hunting horn. DIDINGA. S.E. SUDAN. S.P. Powell [brown luggage label, tied to object; RTS 7/3/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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