Advanced Search

K-12 Educator
K-12 Student
Museum Visitor
UMMA Docent
UMMA Staff
University Faculty
University Student
Between and Mortarboard


UMMA Object Specific Fields






Query builder

Bellows

Accession Number
2005/1.217

Title
Bellows

Artist(s)
Luba

Artist Nationality
Luba (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
circa 1930

Medium & Support
wood and iron

Dimensions
24 15/16 in x 17 11/16 in x 5 15/16 in (63.3 cm x 44.9 cm x 15 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern

Subject matter
Attributed to the southern Luba Shaba from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this pair of bellows would have been used by a smith to heat a forge. The male figure depicted here represents the smith himself.
Smiths were highly esteemed in Luba society since they were exclusively responsible for the production of iron, copper, and other metal products. In fact, the Luba believed that the ability to transmute minerals into objects of cultural, social, and economic value required supernatural powers.
The Luba associated bellows with procreation and reproduction, and the smelting process is described in sexual terms. For instance, the furnace symbolizes the body of a female, or the smith’s wife, while the bellows represent a phallus. During the smithing process, the smith and his aides abstain from sexual relations, out of fear that the metal product being created may become misshapen or disfigured.

Reference:
Maurer, Evan M. and Niangi Batulukisi.  Spirits Embodied:  Art of the Congo, Selections from the Helmut F. Stern Collection.  Minneapolis:  The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1999.

Physical Description
This set of bellows features an elegantly carved male head as a finial. Sitting atop a cylindrical neck that has been pierced with a metal ring, the polished male head features an ovoid face; a high forehead with a vertical line; scarified lines across the cheekbones; and, a coiffure with a finely, detailed pattern at the front and parted down the center.
The man’s “torso” is a trapezoidal piece of wood while two long iron rods functioning as handles represent his “legs.” A pair of round chambers—one on each side of his torso—would originally have had leather bags attached to them, allowing for the pumping of air to heat a fire or forge.

Primary Object Classification
Wood and Woodcarving

Primary Object Type
device

Collection Area
African

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
bellows (fire controlling equipment)
iron (metal)
metalworkers
phallic
reproduction (biological event)

1 Related Resource

Cabinet W: Shelf 4
(Part of: Albertine Monroe-Brown Study-Storage Gallery)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted