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Arts of Africa

These pendants carved from hippopotamus teeth were strung on cords with beads and amulets. The gesture of the hands on the breasts signifies divination, respect, and the containment of royal secrets.

The pendants are portraits, or at least likenesses, of certain revered ancestors, who are named and honored. Devotees have rubbed the figures with oil in homage to these ancestors, creating a smooth, rich color and lustrous surface.

MEDIUM Hippopotamus tooth
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 3 3/4 x 1 x 1 1/4 in. (9.5 x 2.5 x 3.2 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
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CAPTION Luba. Pendant, 19th century. Hippopotamus tooth, 3 3/4 x 1 x 1 1/4 in. (9.5 x 2.5 x 3.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.1235. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE 3/4, 22.1235_threequarter_left_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Pendant with slightly curved torso, carved in the round from a hippopotamus tooth. Face is oval-shaped; eyes, oval and closed; and nose, triangular. From back, headdress is flat with large cross carved in relief. Neck composed of three stacked folds or rings. Arms are close to body; hands hold breasts. Two curved projections extend from bottom of figure on each side. Wooden core is inserted in hollowed-out bottom of figure. Slight discoloration in center of torso; small check on top of head. Below neck area a hole pierces entire object for suspension.
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