Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB


Kongo whistles such as this, made from an antelope horn with a wooden carved figure attached to it, were used by people who were believed to have special abilities for communicating with the non-visible spiritual realm. These included chiefs, initiated men, and especially diviners and ritual specialists known as baganga, who were healers and judges and capable of defending people against those who would use spiritual powers to harm others. The theme of the mother and child, depicted here, is frequently seen in Kongo art, recognition of the Kongo belief that a woman’s most important role was in ensuring the continuation of her clan.

Kongo peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Early 20th century (?)
Wood, horn, glass beads
H. 6 in. (15.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 76.136.1