Smoking and Drinking

By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kuba (Bushoong) artist


Wood, copper, camwood powder

H 18.5 cm (7 ¼ ")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1990.636

In many parts of central Africa the drinking of alcoholic beverages is an important social activity and a marker of important religious and political events. Grains, including millet corn, or tree sap may be fermented in large pots. Different regions, towns and even households brew alcohol according to their own recipes. The cups from which these beverages are consumed are often marked by elaborate decoration, setting them apart from other vessels. Likewise, tobacco use has significance far beyond its casual use in the West. In some parts of Africa, in fact, smoking and drinking are linguistically linked, and the same verb is used for both. Tobacco may be used as part of religious ceremonies, and pipes are often a prominent part of royal regalia. The field photo is of a Kuba king, who might have owned such a cup.

Kuba artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo, king in regalia. Photo by Angelo Turconi.