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Figure of a woman with Calabash on Head. Senufo.

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    New York (photographed)

  • Date:

    1935 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Evans, Walker, born 1903 - died 1975 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Photograph

  • Museum number:

    2059-1936

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 202, box I

Physical description

Photograph of a wooden figure of a woman with a calabash on her head, from an exhibition of African art

Place of Origin

New York (photographed)

Date

1935 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Evans, Walker, born 1903 - died 1975 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Photograph

Dimensions

Height: 26.125 in Height of sculpture

Object history note

NB: The term "negro" was used historically to describe people of black (sub-Saharan) African heritage but, since the 1960s, has fallen from usage and, increasingly, is considered offensive. The term is repeated here in its original historical context.

Lagenaria siceraria (synonym Lagenaria vulgaris Ser.), bottle gourd, opo squash or long melon is a vine grown for its fruit, which can either be harvested young and used as a vegetable, or harvested mature, dried, and used as a bottle, utensil, or pipe. For this reason, the calabash is widely known as the bottle gourd. The fresh fruit has a light green smooth skin and a white flesh. Rounder varieties are called calabash gourds. They come in a variety of shapes, they can be huge and rounded, or small and bottle shaped, or slim and more than a meter long.
The calabash was one of the first cultivated plants in the world, grown not primarily for food, but for use as a water container. Hollowed out and dried calabashes are a very typical utensil in households across West Africa. They are used to clean rice, carry water and as food containers. Smaller sizes are used as bowls to drink palm wine.
Calabashes are used in making the West African kora (a harp-lute), xalam/ngoni (a lute) and the goje (a traditional fiddle). They also serve as resonators underneath the balafon (West African marimba). The calabash is also used in making the shegureh (a Sierra Leonean women's rattle) and balangi (a Sierra Leonean type of balafon) musical instruments. Sometimes, large calabashes are simply hollowed, dried and used as percussion instruments, especially by Fulani, Songhai, Gur-speaking and Hausa peoples. In Nigeria, the calabash has been used to avoid a law requiring the wearing of a helmet on a motorcycle. In South Africa, it is commonly used as a drinking vessel by tribes such as the Zulus. Ebore tribe children in Ethiopia wear hats made from the calabash to protect them from the sun. Recently, the Soccer City stadium which hosted the FIFA World Cup has been completed and its shape takes inspiration from the calabash.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Walker Evans depicting a wooden figure of a woman with calabash on head, by the Senufo people in Ivory Coast, from a Museum of Modern Art exhibition entitled 'African Negro Art'. New York, 1935.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

AFRICAN NEGRO ART

Photographs by Walker Evans

List of Photographs

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935
African Negro Art Edited by James Johnson Sweeney, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935

Techniques

Gelatin silver process; Photography

Subjects depicted

Senufo; Gourd; Sculpture; Container; African; Fruit

Categories

Africa; Photographs

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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