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Cup

The skill and hours of labor involved in creating the rich surface patterning on this cup made it an object of prestige among the Kuba. Cowrie shells, which are inlaid, served as currency in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and so on this cup they not only offer a contrasting color and texture but also indicate the wealth of the cup’s owner. The face on the cup’s handle is covered with copper, a metal associated with high status.

Kuba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Cup
Late 19th or early 20th century
Wood, cowrie shells, copper
W. 7 in. (17.8 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 87.24.6