Smoking and Drinking

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

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kuba peoples

Palm wine cup

Wood

H. 27.2 cm (10 23/32")

Indiana University Art Museum, 77.34.2

Goblets used for consumption of palm wine are among the best-known of these ornately worked objects. Head-shaped or cephalomorphic goblets are particularly impressive feats of carving, combining naturalism with elaborate abstract ornamentation. The distinct, angular hairline of this head replicates the fashionable hairstyle of Kuba nobles at the turn of the century. The reddish tint that highlights much of the carved design is tool, a powder made of ground camwood and palm oil. Tool is a traditional cosmetic, rubbed onto the face and body to create a coppery sheen. When used on sculpture it serves a similar function, beautifying the object and enhancing its form.