East African Ethnographic Art

Selected Items from the Judith and Norman Miller Collection

A number of ethnographic implements and art objects were collected by Judy and Norman Miller during their twenty-eight field trips to Eastern Africa and Zimbabwe. The collection includes three-dimensional items and a few two-dimensional paintings from the local cultures in which they lived or visited. This preliminary catalogue is a selection of African items acquired between 1970 and 2005. 

The main locations are from the Millers’ residence among the Sukuma-Nyamwezi people in Tabora, Tanzania; the Boran and Gabbra people of Marsabit, Kenya; and the Kamba people of Machakos, Kenya. A few pieces of Zimbabwean stone sculpture are from the Harare area of Zimbabwe and were gifts from the Frank McEwen Collection. 

Some of the items served as illustrations in Judith Miller’s book Art in East Africa (London: Muller, 1975), the first comprehensive guide to East African contemporary art. Her book brought to light the works of African artists working from 1965-1975. Galleries, museums, and art schools are also described by the author, who had unique qualifications, having worked at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and managed a private gallery of Zimbabwean stone sculpture.

[Note: pictures take a few seconds to load on first viewing.]

Masks:

  • M001: Nyamwezi Execution Mask with two ceremonial bead collections (gift to Norman Miller from Chief Mdaka), December, 1964, Usagari Village, Tabora Region, Tanzania (also see J012 as possible bead collection), 9” long
  • M002: Carved Nyakyusa Mask (gift to Norman Miller from Chief Gordan Mwansasu), February, 1965, Seso Village, Rungwe District, Tanzania, 15” long
  • M003: Congo Ceremonial Mask, Kinshasa Airport, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1966, 14.5” long

Carvings: 

  • C001: Makondi Spirit Carving, Half Animal, Half Woman (acquired by Norman Miller). Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 28” tall
  • C002: Makondi Bird and Creature Carving (acquired by Norman Miller), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 13” tall
  • C003: Makondi Woman and Child (acquired by Norman Miller), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 12” tall
  • C004: Makondi Spirit Carving, One-Legged Creature (acquired by Norman Miller), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 7” tall 
  • C005: Makondi Spirit Carving, Creature and Snake (acquired by Norman Miller), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 28” tall
  • C006: Makondi Spirit Carving, Creature and Two Baskets (acquired by Norman Miller), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 23” tall
  • C007: Makondi Frog Carving (acquired by Norman Miller), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 4.5” tall 
  • C008: Makondi Women’s Head (acquired by Norman Miller), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 8.5” tall (Lays flat on table)
  • C009: Makondi Figure With Basket (acquired by Norman Miller), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 1965, 8.5” tall
  • C010: Nyamwezi Male and Female Carvings, 1965, 12” tall each
  • C011: Makondi (?) 19cm Thin Carving, 12” tall 
  • C012: Two Woman Head Carvings, Unknown Origin (Kenya or Tanzania), 1970, 4” tall each
  • C013: Makondi Man’s Head Sleeping, 4” tall
  • C014: 17 Carved Napkin Rings, Kamba, Kenya, 1.5” diameter each
  • C015: Healer’s Walking Stick, Nyamwezi, Tabora, Tanzania, 1965, 32” long
  • C016: Airport Art, Possible Kamba (?), 1970, 11” tall
  • C017: Makondi Head, 9.5” tall
  • C018: Makondi Turtle Carving, 5” long
  • C019: Sukuma-Nyamwezi Fertility Carving, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 2015, 5” tall 
  • C020: Carved Wooden Pot, Nyamwezi, 4” tall
  • C021: Turkana, Northern Kenya, Nomadic Headrest (DOUBLE SEE MISC. FROM HOUSE)
  • C022: Chapungu Eagle From Zimbabwe (DOUBLE SEE MISC. FROM HOUSE)
  • C023: Rabbit, Artist F. Vanji, 6” tall 
  • C024: Snake, Artist D. Ncube, 7” tall
  • C025: Mother and Child, Artist B. Matemeri, 10” tall
  • C026: Makondi Stone Carved Bird, 2” tall
  • C027: Broken Stone Animal, Zimbabwe, 1970, 3” tall

Weapons:

  • W001: Six Mbuti (Pygmy) Congolese Ritual Spearheads, Metal, Ituri Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1960, 15”, 7.5”, 16”, 7”, 11”, and 15” long (in order of file name)
  • W002: Eight Mbuti Arrows, Ituri Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1960, 26-33″ long
  • W003: Five Maasai Spears (may also be Kamba or Nyamwezi), 22”, 23”, 33”, 56”, and 52” long each (in order of file name)
  • W004: Six Metal Arrowheads, Nyamwezi, Tabora, Blacksmith at Sikonge, 1990, all between 3”-5” tall
  • W005: Mbuti (?) Knife, 1960, 10” long
  • W006: Sudanese Finger Knife, South Sudan, 1960, 4” long
  • W007: East African Spearhead, 12” long
  • W008: Hunting Knife (Unknown Origin: African or Asian), 12” long

Jewelry: 

  • J001: Two Thin Ivory Bracelets, Boran, Marsabit, Northern Kenya, 1972, 2” diameter
  • J002: Four Large Ivory Arm Rings, Boran, Marsabit, Kenya (gift of family Dokata Iya), 1972 (Ceremonial Ivory Arm Bands used to distinguish bravery in lion and elephant killings), openings are each about 2” in diameter
  • J003: Seven Maasai Bead Necklaces, Kajido, Kenya, 1965-1972, J003.1-J003.6 = 6” diameter opening, J003.7 = 8” diameter opening
  • J004: Two Sets Maasai Earrings 5.5” long each
  • J005: Four Bracelets, Copper and other Metals, East Africa (Possible Aluminum Bracelets from Crashed Italian Airplanes During WWII Missions from Italian Somalia into British held Northern Kenya, Italian Airbase in Southern Ethiopia near Mega was possibly airbase for Italian Reconnaissance Missions), 3” diameter, 3” diameter, 2” diameter, 2” diameter each (in order of file name)
  • J006: Elephant Hair Bracelet, East Africa, Nairobi City Market, Kenya, 1972, about 3” diameter
  • J007: East African Silver Bracelet, Unknown Origin
  • J008: Thin Copper Necklace, East Africa, 7” diameter
  • J009: Copper Bracelet, Ethiopia or Kenya
  • J010: White Bead Belt with Metal Dangles, Maasai, East Africa, approximately 18” long
  • J011: Small Copper Earring, East Africa, 1” tall
  • J012: Nyamwezi (?) beadwork that accompanied execution masks (collected by Norman Miller), Tabora, Tanzania, 1965, 31” long
  • J013: Miscellaneous Bracelets, Kenya, Unknown Origin (Purchased in Nairobi Market), 1975, about 2” diameter each
  • J014: Necklace (Maasai, Kamba (Kenya), or Swaziland (South Africa) Circa 1975, 
  • J015: Large Necklace, Wristband, and Earrings (origin unknown, possible East Africa, or Southern Africa) Circa 1970s, 6” diameter necklace, 2.5” diameter bracelet, 1” tall earrings
  • J016: Necklace of Unknown Origin, Possibly East Africa or Ethiopia, 6” diameter
  • J017: Large Copper Earring, East Africa, 1” tall 

Musical Instruments:

  • I001: Zebra Covered Drum, Lepra Colony Construction, Nyamwezi Area, Tabora Region, Tanzania, 1964, 20” tall
  • I002: Three Small Drums, Lepra Colony Construction, Nyamwezi Area, Tabora Region, Tanzania, 1964
  • I003: Finger Harp, Kenya Coast, 1969, 7” long
  • I004: Small Drum, 8” tall 
  • I005: Four Drum Sticks, each about 9” long
  • I006: Gourd and Cowrie Shell Musical Instrument, 9” tall

Body Decorations 

  • D001: Five African Carved Combs, Lamu Kenya 1965-1972 Origin is Coastal Kenya, Digo People Ukunda Village South Coast of Kenya, Others are Kamba and Nyamwezi, 10”, 8.5”, 6.5”, 5.5”, 12” tall each (in order of file name)

Agriculture:

  • A001: Nyamwezi Hand Axe, 1965, 27” tall
  • A002: Metal an Cowhide Cow Bell, Boran Culture, Marsabet Kenya 1972, 19” long
  • A003: Two Malawai Model Fish trap, 12” long
  • A004: Small Cow Bell From Northern Kenya, 2.5” tall
  • A005: Milk Gourd from Northern Kenya, 16.5” tall

Baskets:

  • B001: Small Swazi Basket 14cm deep, 18cm wide
  • B002: Woven Place Mat, Unknown Origin, 9.5” diameter
  • B003: Decorative Basket, Unknown Origin, 6.5” tall
  • B004: Two Swazi Basket Top, 6.5” diameter

Utensils:

  • U001: Wooden Spoon, Kenya 1972
  • U002: Milk Pod, Marsabit Region, Northern Kenya, Boran or Gabbra, 10” tall 
  • U003: African (Boran) Gabbra Milk Container, 8” tall
  • U004: Hong Kong China, Grain Container, wood and metal, 1979, 8.5×7.75, 

Games:

  • G001: Mbao Wooden Game Board, Zaramo, Tanzania Coast, 1965, 29” long