Loango tusk

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National Maritime Museum, First floor, The Atlantic gallery

This carved elephant tusk depicts African life and the arrival of the Europeans.

It was probably carved for sale to Europeans. Part of the story depicts the enslavement of Africans, who are shown being forcibly marched to the coast. 

Other scenes show a European delegation, a band of African musicians, and a man carrying an umbrella, which was a status object associated with trade with Europeans. Still more scenes show representations of animals, such as the one with two men drinking with a dog at their table. Animals like dogs and lizards are particularly linked to the supernatural in Kongo religion and represent the spiritual elements of life on the Loango coast.

It was produced in the late 19th century, between Cape Lopez and the Zaire River in West Africa. Depending on the size, the carving of a single tusk could take between two and sixteen months.