West African calabash food container

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West African calabash food container

This object is made from the fruit of a gourd-plant. The husk is hollowed out, dried and hardened, and then can be used for many purposes: for example a food container, or a musical instrument (rattle, stringed, percussion). It can also be decorated. Calabashes are used in many cultures around the world.

My calabash was acquired when we were living in West Africa in the 1950s-60s. It comprises a lid and a base; I photographed them side by side to show the designs on both. They are carved with intricate repetitive linear and curved patterns. The incisions are emphasised in black. The surface has traces of white coating. The design on the lid includes pierced holes. The main motif on the top is two symmetrical entwined snakes.

My thoughts: at first it looks simple; but when i handle and think about it, it's amazingly complex. The countless hours the craftsman must have taken to cut that intricate design. It's a practical functional object, but also beautiful and aesthetic. I imagine an African woman walking through the bush, carrying this on her head.

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West Africa - Nigeria


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