Pottery and dung vessels

Nuba, probably early 20th century AD
From Jebel Kadero, Sudan

Pottery bowls of animal dung and water are made by unmarried girls and form an important part of her trousseau. Shaped by hand, the pots are painted with a layer of gum mixed with a red earth slip and left to dry. Soot, obtained from the outside of a cooking pot, is later painted onto the outside of the pot and most of the inside leaving a thin band of red slip for a white creeper-like design to be applied.

The designs on pots are similar to those found on Nuba house walls and on elements of male body decoration. Feathers and lengths of grass are used to produce chevrons, arrows and other shapes.

Such vessels are very fragile as they are not fired and are not as strong as calabashes (gourds used for cooking) whose form they imitate. They are not used in food preparation but for storing dried foodstuffs. At the wedding ceremony they are filled with perfumes, flour and dried vegetables.

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More information


T. Phillips (ed.), Africa, the art of a continent (London, Royal Academy, 1995)

N. Barley, Smashing pots, feats of clay f (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


Height: 15.000 cm (largest)
Diameter: 33.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1948.Af6.2-3, 5


Gift of N. Corkhill


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