X91.297 Tusk

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Kongo peoples
Loango Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Circa 1850
L: 42.5 cm, W: 6.5 cm, D: 4.5 cm (L: 16.7 in, W: 2.6 in, D: 1.8 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. The Jerome L. Joss Collection. X91.297


From about 1830 to 1900, artists along the Loango Coast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola carved numerous ivory objects for foreign consumption. Most impressive are the ivory tusks that were relief carved in a spiral band from base to tip. This intricately rendered ivory tusk is the early work of a prestigious Loango Coast carving ”guild.” Perhaps as many as 600 of these tusks were produced during the second half of the nineteenth century, primarily as souvenirs commissioned by employees of various European trading companies. A few were presented as gifts from African to European royalty. This tusk portrays European and African images. Notice the elephants, leopards, and chimpanzees that share the stage with unicorns and heraldic lions. Traditional African knee-length skirts appear along with shorts, stocking caps, flintlock guns, and umbrellas. At the base of the tusk, a young Queen Victoria sits in profile within her coat of arms.

Source: Exhibition Wall Text: Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006