Zande raft zither

Zande raft zither
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1920
Reed Plant , Plant Fibre , Wood Plant
Split , Bound , Tied , Carved
Soundboard L = 500, W = 203; max W (including cross bars) = 271; bridges L = 202, W = 10, Ht = 15; gap between bridges = 227; wood end bars W = 5, th = 3; string W = 3 (unbound), 3.5 (bound centres) [RTS 21/9/2005].
207 g
Other Owners:
Probably collected by Reginald W. Davies in the Sudan around 1915-1920; donated to PRM by his wife, Gwenllyan Kathleen Butler Davies several years after her husband's death, in December 1976, via her grandson, Edward Best.
Field Collector:
Reginald W. Davies
PRM Source:
Gwenllyan Kathleen Butler Davies via Edward Best
Donated December 1976
Collected Date:
1915 - 1920
Raft zither, consisting of a stringbearer made from 27 sections of thick yellow reed, cut off between the nodes and laid side by side to form a rectangular soundbox (Pantone 7509C), with smaller reeds used to fill the gaps between. These have been fastened together near either end with pairs of wooden twigs, stripped of their bark and laid at right angles to the surface, which is sandwiched between them; the whole is then lashed together using brown fibre strips that form a thick, decorative binding across the top (Pantone 7505C). These twigs extend out beyond the edges of this soundbox. Two pinkish brown wooden bridges have been placed across the width of the soundbox, parallel to the ends (Pantone 728C); these are held in place by the tension from the strings. There are 11 of these, formed from the epidermis of the reeds that make up the stringbearer, stripped away from the surface some 60 to 80 mm from the reed ends, and pulled taut across the bridges. These strings are bound tightly to the reed bodies at either end, using narrow strips of orangey brown plant fibre, to prevent further splitting (Pantone 729C). The centre of each string has been similarly bound, but using narrower strips. The instrument would be played by plucking these strings between the bridges with the fingers. On the underside of the soundboard, the epidermis has been stripped from 16 of its constituent reeds, and 3 wooden cross bars have been fitted beneath these, using the resulting tension to help keep the soundboard body together. The stripped epidermis on this side of the instrument has not been bound at its base. Finally, there is a single strip of fibre or bark, tied to the central cross bar; this could be the remains of a broken carrying loop. Otherwise, the zither is complete, although two of the strings have broken. It has a weight of 207 grams. The soundboard is 500 mm long and 203 mm wide; the maximum width of the instrument is 271 mm; the bridges are 202 mm long, 10 mm wide and 15 mm high, and have a gap of 227 mm between them; the pieces of wood used to secure the reed elements together have a width of 5 mm and are 3 mm thick; the strings are 3 mm wide, where unbound, and 3.5 mm wide across the bound centres.

Probably collected by Reginald W. Davies in the Sudan around 1915-1920, while working for the Sudan Political Service; donated to the Museum by his wife, Gwenllyan Kathleen Butler Davies several years after her husband's death, in December 1976, via her grandson, Edward Best.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry - D. Mrs Reginald Davies, ... Brighton. prob. Sudan, Zande. Raft Zither, probably collected in Sudan by the donor's husband around 1915-1920. He served in the Sudan political service during that time. The zither is made of several grass stalks or reeds stretched taut and bound together at each end. Two wide sticks placed across the horizontal reeds act as resonators, pulling several grass "strings" tight. L = 49.6 cm. W = 21 cm. Donated by Mrs Davies per Mr Edward Best, New College, Oxford - her grandson; Dec. 1976. see correspondence 002.10.1/16.
Added Accession Book Entry - A2.F14.12

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 3/2/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - Prob. SUDAN, ZANDE. Raft zither. Donated by Mrs Reginald Davies, 1976. 1977.11.1 [plastic coated label with metal eyelet, tied to object; RTS 20/9/2005].

Related Documents File - 002.10.1/16. The correspondance that is referred to in the accessions book has yet to be located; the reference number should refer to the filing system used by former directors [RTS 3/2/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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