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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 

Wooden male and female figures


Wooden male and female figures

Woman

Man

Man


Height: 42.000 cm (woman)
Width: 11.000 cm (woman)
Depth: 8.000 cm (woman)
Height: 42.000 cm (woman)
Width: 11.000 cm (woman)
Depth: 8.000 cm (woman)

AOA 1979 Af.1.4623-4


This pair of figures, one male and one female, are carved in the style used by the central Nyamwezi people. The Nyamwezi are a large, Bantu-speaking ethnic group who live primarily in Tanzania, south of Lake Victoria. The figures have long, slender limbs and serene facial expressions and their clothing and hairstyles can be dated to the 1940s or 50s. The source of inspiration for their creation is unknown: were they carved for sale to Europeans or for the local market? Are there elements of parody in the stylized figures, or are they simply city-dwelling Africans in European dress?

In the nineteenth century the Nyamwezi acted as middlemen in the lucrative ivory and slave trade that ran between the Congo (modern Democratic Republic of Congo) and the Swahili coastal towns in Tanzania and on Zanzibar Island. These trade routes generated a highly mobile population of craftsmen, traders, slaves and intermediaries. As a result, the Nyamwezi settled in a wide range of communities in south-eastern Congo, Zambia and Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria.

Unlike many other East African groups the Nyamwezi had an already established tradition of figurative carving, most notably of ancestor figures, which they continued to pursue in their new environments. It is possible that the rich variety of influences that the Nyamwezi experienced as intermediaries along the trade routes provided the stimulation for these figures.