Zande or Mangbetu basket

Zande or Mangbetu basket
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Zande? [Mangbetu?]
Date Made:
By 1917
Palm Fibre Plant , String
Basketry , Twill Woven , Bound , Tied , Decorated , Dyed
Ht = 105, rim diam ext. = 156 by 150, rim diam int. = 145 by 140, base L = 102, base W = 102; W fibre strips = 2 to 2.5 mm, diam string = 1 mm [RTS 7/2/2005].
30.9 g
Other Owners:
Collected by Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, probably in the period immediately before World War I (1909-1914); entered in PRM records as a donation of Henry Balfour for convenience.
Field Collector:
Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson
PRM Source:
Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson [Henry Balfour]
Donated 1917
Collected Date:
By 1917
Basket, probably woven from the base upwards. The base is slightly convex, and square in plan view, with well defined corners; it has been woven from a series of narrow strips of yellow palm fibre in a twill pattern of over 3, under 3. This turns up into vertical sides, which bulge slightly outwards, with the body becoming increasingly circular in plan view as it rises up towards the rim. The weave changes to a more complex pattern that varies the overlap from 1 to 4, to create a geometric design in which the naturally yellow strips (Pantone 7509C) are contrasted with strips that have been dyed a darker brown colour (Pantone Black 7C). These 2 colours are evenly distributed, creating a regular pattern in which there are a series of brown oblique bands running one way across the body, crossed by similar bands in yellow running in the opposite direction. This creates a lattice, with the centre of each lozenge-shaped space divided into 4 quadrants of opposing colours. At the top of the sides, the pattern is finished with 2 horizontal rows of brown fibre. The vertical warp elements continue above this, where they are gathered into groups of 3, leaving regular gaps between each group. At their top, the warp is woven in with a bundle of similar palm strips to make a thickened rim that runs around the top of the basket. This was then bound with a light brown twisted fibre string, probably of European manufacture, and tied off (Pantone 7504C). The rim is essentially circular, but slightly distorted. The basket is complete, but some of the brown dye has begun to flake off in places. It has a weight of 30.9 grams, and is 105 mm high. The rim measures 156 by 150 mm across its outside edges, and 145 by 140 mm across its interior; the base is 102 mm long and 102 mm wide. Each of the fibre strips has a width of 2 to 2.5 mm and the string has a diameter of 1 mm.

Collected by Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, probably between 1909 and 1914, and probably donated to the museum in 1917, although it was not accessioned until 1942.

Although stylistically similar to some Zande hats in the collection (1917.25.47, 1942.8.86-89, 1930.86.32-33, and 1948.2.162), it has been made using different techniques. The weave is a twill (3/3) as opposed to the twill (2/2) seen on the other examples; there is no fibre overstitching, nor have cane stiffeners been added to the top of the crown (and the corners of the hat are pristine, showing that these were never present), while the lower edge has been finished in a completely different way. The shape and these differences may indicate that this is a basket, rather than a hat, and it has been catalogued accordingly. It is also possible that the collector has been misidentified as Gayer-Anderson, as this object was found unlabelled, and does not match the other Gayer-Anderson hats. Its attribution to the Zande is also therefore not certain, and other possibilities would include the Mangbetu.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry - [p. 125, August 1942] The late Henry Balfour, F.R.S. , Miscellaneous specimens found unlabelled, entered for convenience as donations of the late Curator. [p. 141] 1942.8.90 - Cap (?or basket, or basket-lid) of ornamental straw basketry, cylindrical with square top, similar in size, shape and technique to the four preceding specimens [1942.8.86-89], but with different rim and different pattern. ?AZANDE. Found unlabelled.

Card Catalogue Entry - Information given repeats accession book entry, with added comment: '?Coll. and pres. by Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson in 1917, set aside as duplicate. Found unlabelled and unentered and ascribed to H. Balfour [RTS 2/2/2004].

Related Documents File - In the Related Documents File is a list detailing: "Donors, or probable donors, of material entered under Mr Balfour’s name, 1942.8.90 ?cap or basket-lid, R.G. Gayer-Anderson ?1917” [MR 11/5/2000].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Cap (?) of ornamental straw basketry. AZANDE (?), BAHR-EL-GHAZAL (?), 1942.8.90 [rectangular metal-edged tag, tied to object; RTS 31/1/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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