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Divination Basket (ngombo ya cisuka)






Divination Basket (ngombo ya cisuka)


Before 1902


Vegetable fibre, various materials


11.2 cm (h.), 18.2 cm (diam.)


Gift of Mrs. Jean M. Collins and family in memory of the Rev. Dr. S. Ralph Collins, inv. 1992.F.151a-b


Archeology and World Cultures

Only women past childbearing age make divination baskets. Their transformation into powerful objects takes place at a ceremony during which a diviner “steals” the basket (leaving behind the agreed-upon payment) and is cursed by the basket maker. Acquired over time, small natural and carved objects form a microcosm. During divination, the diviner shakes the basket and makes his prophecy based on the position of those objects. A worn-out divination basket is buried as it remains dangerous. In this case, did the European identity of the collector (the danger from then on threatening an outsider and not a member of the community), the need for money, or the conversion to Christianity of its owner play a role in the departure from tradition?

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