Powder Flask

Accession Number

Powder Flask


Artist Nationality
Kuba (Democratic Republic of Congo style)

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support

6 5/16 in x 4 2/5 in x 3 ¾ in (16 cm x 11.2 cm x 9.5 cm)

Credit Line
Gift and partial purchase from the estate of Kurt Delbanco in honor of Nicholas Delbanco

Subject matter
Kuba artists applied their bold and sophisticated surface design to both ceremonial and everyday objects alike. Objects such as drums, boxes, stools, backrests, knives, swords, bangles, wisdom baskets, staffs and fly whisks were typically reserved for the king and his courtiers. However, these objects in addition to cups, rubbing oracles, pipes, combs, drinking horns, ritual spoons, and scepters also served specific religious and ceremonial functions, or were simply everyday objects for common use.

Ornately designed flasks often held powders such as tukula powder called tool or twool. Made from ground camwood, tukula was used abundantly on Kuba carvings. It was also smeared on clothing and used in times of mourning. 

Daniel Biebuyck, The Arts of Zaire, 1985
Roy Sieber, African Textiles and Decorative Arts, 1972
Jan Vansina, The Children of Woot, 1978

Physical Description
Globular container with circular base and cone-shaped lid. There are two tunnel-like holes symmetrically opposing, another vertically traveling through the lid down the sides of the container. Large looping circular patterns with small diamond grids are carved across the entire container.

Primary Object Classification
Wood and Woodcarving

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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carvings (visual works)
geometric motifs
vessels (containers)

& Author Notes

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