Silk throughout the African continent, £10.99
Height: 8.900 cm
Gift of Emil Torday
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Luba, probably early 20th century
From the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire)
A divination instrument
This small wooden double-headed object, collected by Emil Torday (1875-1931), the Hungarian ethnographer, was at first described by him as a 'snuff-grinder'. Snuff is prepared from the green leaf of the tobacco plant which is dried and ground into a powder and is taken by men.
However, scholars have since concluded that it is, in fact, an instrument used in divination, called a luboko. Diviners are consulted on a variety of matters, from the source of illness or infertility to the identification of thieves or witches. The diviner and his client each hold one side of the object, thus creating a mystical link between them during the consultation.
J. Mack, Emil Torday and the art of the (London, The British Museum Press)