Little is known about the Ngelima, who live in the northeastern part of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Copper rods were a common currency in central Africa, but their transformation into long spirals is unusual. The form has a practical value, though: compressing the coils allows the metal to be carried and stored more compactly. The form seems to be intended to recall a snake—note the difference in the treatment of top and bottom—though the reason is not clear.
Ngelima peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo
20th century (?)
L. 41 ½ in. (105.4 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of Tom Joyce, 2005.307