Lot: 256

95th Tribal Art Auction

Friction oracle "itombwa" in crocodile form

D. R. Congo, Kuba

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Fred Jahn, Munich, Germany
German Private Collection (1982)
Lempertz, Brussels, 22 January 2013, Lot 148
L: 15.7 inch;
H: 3 inch
This object is not available anymore.

wood, red pigment, plant fibre, sacrificial traces, rest.

Friction oracles were used to mediate between diviners and omniscient nature spirits "ngesh" in order to determine the cause of illnesses and appropriate courses of treatment, as well as to expose dishonesty.

Friction oracles of the Kuba are predominantly zoomorphic in form, representing bush pig, dog or mostly a crocodile. A saying of the Kuba is "the crocodile never lies".

When initiating a consultation, the diviner moistens the implement with oil or water and rubs it on the friction oracle's back.

For a medical consultation, the diviner performs the action while making a series of statements about potential measures that might be taken (for example, "don't eat manioc", "don't smoke tobacco", etc.); when the most appropriate treatment is mentioned, the rubbing implement suddenly stops moving, and the diviner feels it resisting his efforts and sticking to the surface of the oracle.

LaGamma, Alisa, Art and Oracle, African Art and Rituals of Divination, The Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York 2000, p. 44 f.