Acholi rattle

Acholi rattle
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1970
Gourd Plant , Plant Seed , String , Plant Fibre
Hollowed , Dried , Perforated Stitched , Plugged Twisted , Decorated , Pyroengraved Pokerwork
L = 163 mm, Diam = 79.8 x 78.5, upper handle diam = 26, lower diam = 12.2, cord diam = 1.5 mm [RTS 2/9/2005].
33.5 g
Other Owners:
Purchased by Chloe Vulliamy from The National Handicraft Centre, Kampala on 11th March 1970 for 3 Ugandan shillings
Field Collector:
Chloe Vulliamy
PRM Source:
Chloe Vulliamy
Purchased 1970
Collected Date:
11th March 1970
Vessel rattle, made from a small gourd plant that has been hollowed out and dried. This has a spherical body and narrow tapering neck with rounded end that serves as the instrument's handle. The exterior of the gourd is a smooth yellowish orange colour (Pantone 7510C), with traces of a paler yellow skin on top (Pantone 7507C). The surface has been decorated with a pattern burnt in using a heated blade, consisting of a band of 'crows-foot' or simple branch motifs around the centre of the body, with 3 pointing upwards and 6 pointing down, a row of short oblique lines around the lower walls, then several horizontal lines loosely spaced around the handle. The interior of the rattle has been filled with a number of medium-sized seeds, that create a rattling sound when shaken. These would have been inserted through the top of the vessel, where a central hole has been cut; this has been sewn shut with a length of twisted 2-ply European string in a pale cream colour (Pantone 7506C), with the stitches passing through a ring of 11 small holes around the mouth, then woven into a solid knot over the opening, with one end of the string left loose. The rattle is complete and intact, with a weight of 33.5 grams; the body is 163 mm long, with a diameter of 79.8 by 78.5 mm; the handle has an upper diameter of 26 mm and a base diameter of 12.2 mm, while the cord has a diameter of 1.5 mm.

Purchased by Chloe Vulliamy from The National Handicraft Centre, Kampala on 11th March 1970 for 3 Ugandan shillings, and sold to the museum later that year. She did not record its Acholi name.
For similar rattles, see 1942.1.425-6 from the Acholi, and 1979.20.11, from the Moru Misa.

Trowell and Wachsmann discuss Ugandan gourd rattles: "These are ubiquitous; they occupy a prominent place in magico-religious ceremonial and are used in many dances. As ritual practices decrease the rattles become rare, and it is already becoming difficult to secure specimens or at least to see them in action. The narrow neck of the calabash serves as a handle and the spherical part as the rattling vessel proper; the gourd is filled with stones or seeds. A normal length of the whole instrument is between twenty and thirty cm ... a hole in the apex of the gourd, where stones or seeds have been inserted, is sewn up carefully with a pattern of string (Acholi)..." (M. Trowell & K.P. Wachsmann, 1953,
Tribal Crafts of Uganda, p. 322 and pl. 74A1, for a Lango example).

Rachael Sparks 2/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry - P[urchased]. Miss Chloe Vulliamy, ... Deddington, Oxon. Collected for the Museum during the spring of 1970. - UGANDA, ACHOLI TRIBE. Rattle made of a gourd with the dried seeds inside. Globular body with long stem. L. 16.3 cm, diam. of body 7.9 cm. Decorated with burnt-on lines and Ψ marks. Stopper of commercial string at base.
Additional accession book entry [relating to items 1970.13.19-27] - These specimens were bought from The National Handicraft Centre, KAMPALA. [on page opposite 185] - Documents relating to purchase of collection in RDF.

Card Catalogue Entry - EAST AFRICA, UGANDA, ACHOLI TRIBE. 1970.13.23. Rattle made of a gourd with the dried seeds inside. Globular body with long stem. Decorated with burnt out lines and marks. Stopper of commercial string at base. L. 16.3 cm. diam. of body 70.9 cm. B[ough]t at the National Handicraft Centre, KAMPALA, Spring 1970. Coll. for the Museum by Miss C. Vulliamy.

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Uganda, Kampala. ACHOLI tribe. Decorated gourd rattle. Purch. Chloe Vulliamy, 1970.13.23 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 2/9/2005].

Written on object - UGANDA, ACHOLI TRIBE. 1970.13.23 [RTS 1/9/2005].

Related Documents File - This item appears on a list in RDF 1970.13.19-27, headed 'UGANDA', as item 9, 'Acholi Rattle'. This also appears on an associated receipt, dated 11/3/70, bearing the letterhead of the 'Uganda Government NATIONAL HANDICRAFT CENTRE KAMPALA', as '1 rattle, 3 [shillings]'. This is annotated '9', cross referencing it to the previous list, and also with comment '17 shillings to the £'. There is also a direction, signed by Bernard Fagg, and dated 15th June 1970, for Barclays Bank to pay Vulliamy the sum of £33.19 (for all the items presented) [RTS 5/1/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
Help | About | Bibliography