Friction Oracle (Itombwa)

Carved wood figure of a quadraped, probably a dog. The figure's back is concave and smooth from use. The figure's back was rubbed with a stick, dowel, or cloth to create friction. A small bell or gong hangs from the figure's neck. Details of the face (nose, mouth eyes) are carved in.
Artist Unknown, African, Congo (Zaire), Kuba
20th century
Itombwa are tools used by Kuba ritual specialists to locate the source of problems in the community. By rubbing the figure's back, the diviner learns the answers to questions and can then help develop a solution to the petitioner's specific problem. The itombwa is a cosmogram, a model of the universe. By manipulating the model, the diviner can learn the ultimate causes of different experiences in the world, even when those causes are normally invisible.
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis
1997/1.358
Saturday, May 21, 2022