Powder Flask

Accession Number

Powder Flask


Artist Nationality
Kuba (Democratic Republic of Congo style)

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support
wood and metal

12 3/16 in x 3 9/16 in x 3 ⅛ in (31 cm x 9 cm x 8 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.

Flasks are typically used to carry 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. The geometric patterns on this flask are similar to patterns found on Kuba textile, basketry, sculpture, and female body scarifications. 

Daniel Biebuyck, The Arts of Zaire, 1985
Georges Meurant, African Textiles from the Kingdom of Kuba, 1986
Roy Sieber, African Textiles and Decorative Arts, 1972
Jan Vansina, The Children of Woot, 1978

Physical Description
Egg shaped container with removable top. There is a thin metal cable running through the top of the container down opposing sides connecting the top to the body of the vessel. The whole container is covered with grid-like geometric patterns.

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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