About this object

History of use

Calabash type of gourd which grows in many shapes and sizes; purpose depends on natural shape of shell. Usually carved by men. Grown in home gardens. Carved by specialists, who use heated knife blade or smaller tool to scratch areas, then rub with dark soot to stain incised areas. Most patterns geometric motifs of plants animals, household objects and humans. Gourd turns darker with age and use. Usually a favourite one is considered for its form, decoration, age, patterns, and repairs. Large gourd carved by Peter Nzuki, internationally acclaimed artist who has revived the old Kamba tradition of calabash carving. Mended gourds were prized even more.


This gourd was used during ceremonial occasions and held fermented honey-beer.

Physical description

Long, narrow, gourd container incised with geometric designs and two human figures. Bottom has two plant motifs. Has a leather carrying strap connected to leather and is beaded with cowrie shells on the sewn side where it is tied to the gourd. Leather strap is connected to the lid and to the leather which goes half way up the container on both sides. Each side has four small holes where the leather ties go through to hold the strap.