Thembu Pipe - South Africa

Pipes were used in a variety of social contexts in southern Africa, and while sometimes tobacco was smoked as part of a simple interpersonal exchange, other moments were more ritualized. Ancestral spirits could be honored and satisfied by offerings of tobacco, as well as entities inhabiting the surrounding natural world. Among the Xhosa pipes were smoked on such occasions as the Umhlwayelelo ceremony, when river spirits were appeased. In this way pipes were seen as a means to befriend the spiritual world.

The lovely openwork panel forming the centerpiece of this graceful, elegant pipe features a group of slender bands that, taken together, seem to suggest the image of an eye.

Late 19th century
11 3/4” l 3” h
Wood, horn, metal
Provenance: Jonathan Lowen, London; Kevin Conru, Brussels
Published in Africa: The Art of a Continent, Phillips, 1995
Exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts Gallery, London, 1995; Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 1996; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1996
#485
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