Large calabash with a carved antelope and comb motif.

Multi purpose container; can be used to carry things on the head, store food or liquid or as a decorative household container.

How is it used?
Although this one has been made for decorative purposes, similar less highly decorated gourds are often used by women to carry things around on their head. To help balance it and spread the weight of the load, a head ring can be placed on the head and the gourd rests on top of it. They are also often used as bowls for food and liquid. Since they come in many sizes they have many different uses, from bathing a baby to making a musical instrument.

Who is it used by and why them?
Hollowed out half gourds such as this are common all over Africa and particularly in rural areas. They are used wherever the gourd plant grows so they are used by many different cultural groups in many different countries. They are mostly used for domestic chores and therefore mainly used by women. Since they come in many shapes and sizes they are very versatile and may be used at times by male and female, young and old alike.
Gourds are hard skinned fruits from the same plant family as melons, pumpkins, squashes and cucumbers. Most grow on vines and some on trees in tropical climates all over the world. They grow in different shapes and sizes and when hollowed out and dried they make excellent containers. Gourds are very versatile and their range of shapes and sizes makes them suitable for many different purposes. If they are not cut in half like this example a whole gourd is commonly used to carry water, store milk or home made beer. Whole elongated gourds can be cut in half and used as spoons. They also have many uses outside of the home. They make very good fishing floats and very large half gourds have even been used as boats! There is an annual festival in Nigeria where people take to the river in gourd boats.

Another common word for a gourd in Africa is a calabash, taken from the Spanish word for gourd, 'calabaza'. Calabaza itself comes from the Arabic word for a dry (hard-shell) gourd

Collection Information

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