Gourd Musical Bow and Cassava Bread Kneading Trough (Liberia?), mid-19th cent.

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This record was last updated on 08 Sep 2015

Image Reference

Drawings of Western Africa (University of Virginia Library, Special Collections, MSS 14357, no. 21).

Ink wash. The artist describes the musical instrument as “a harp of one string- A calabash shell for sounding loud. Makes sweet music. From 3 to 8 feet long.” Ethnomusicologists might refer to this instrument as a gourd-resonated musical bow; similar items are known from various areas, including Liberia (see George Schwab, Tribes of the Liberian Hinterland [Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 1947], pp. 153-155, figures 78d, 80d). What is identified as a “kneading trough for cassava bread” does not appear to be a mortar, although a pestle is shown with it. Cassava was a widespread food item in the equatorial regions of West Africa, including Liberia, where rice was also very important. This is one of 22 works displayed on this website of West African coastal scenes -- out of a total of 32 -- held by University of Virginia Library. None of the works is dated or signed, and they seem to have been done by at least two different persons (perhaps associated with missionary activities in West Africa and/or the American Colonization Society). See also other image references “UVA” on this website.