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Crown and Ritual

Crown and Ritual: The Royal Insignia of Ngoyo

Introduction and Conclusions by Colleen E. Kriger
Edited by Wendy A. Thomas
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Crown and Ritual
    Book Description:

    A sophisticated analysis of the social context of visual art and material culture and a special contribution to the history and ethnography of West Central Africa.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7364-9
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    One day in 1976 while she was in the ill-lit bowels of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, trying to find objects from Ngoyo, the small Kongo kingdom just north of the mouth of the river Zaïre, Zdenka Volavka came upon an unappetizing sight: a jumble of fragments of metal objects placed in a big bowl, plaited in strips of copper. The hoard had lain there for more than forty years labelled as a ‘fishing basket,’ no doubt neglected as just one more bit of ‘material culture.’ And yet the study of this unattractive jumble became the focus of her...

  4. Editor’s Note
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. 1 Introduction and History of the Investigation
    (pp. 3-8)

    One of the last times I saw Zdenka Volavka, she advised me that in writing history one cannot explain, one can only convince. She sets a prime example in the chapters that follow, where she dissects and examines royal power in the west central African kingdom of Ngoyo,¹ one of several small, very old kingdoms located along the coast just north of the Congo estuary. Overshadowed throughout much of its history by powerful neighbours, Ngoyo became a prominent exporter of slaves through its port of Cabinda in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.² What Volavka demonstrates so convincingly here is that...

  7. 2 The Insignia
    (pp. 9-56)

    The set of sixteen objects or fragments (listed in Appendix Ia) has been made from two metals. Three of the objects are of copper; in three other fragments, copper is combined with iron; and, finally, ten items preserved in uneven condition are made of iron. Of the ten iron items, five are compatible with objects customarily used in a number of African cultures as tools, such as the pick, or as regalia, such as double bells or knives. Five iron items, on the other hand, pose more problems of interpretation, as their analogues in the inventory of the surviving customary...

  8. 3 The Shrine
    (pp. 57-112)

    Coastal regions of the Kongoland were visited frequently by pre-twentieth-century outsiders. Their accounts show that in the past, unlike now, outsiders had ample access to some sites sacred to the inhabitants, such as certain graveyards and shrines. However, despite its location in the vicinity of the Ngoyo port of Cabinda, the Lusunsi shrine was rarely mentioned. The Woyo elders, who in 1973 were willing to communicate information to me on the existence of the insignia, withheld the name of the shrine. In and after 1976, when I was able to identify the shrine in Tastevin’s writings, for political reasons I...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 4 The Sacred
    (pp. 113-148)

    Lusunsi is the divinity of Ngoyo, itsnkisi nsi. Thenkisi nsiis the divine protector of thensi.Nsiis the inhabited and used territory with its land, the variety of its environments, its streams, and, in the case of a littoral country like Ngoyo, its portion of access to the ocean, along with the ocean as well. Not only in Ngoyo but also in other Kongo regions the cult of thebankisi ba nsi(the protective deities of thensi) is regarded as ancient and ranks highest among the cults practised by the Bakongo.

    The Ngoyo myth narrates...

  11. 5 Copper
    (pp. 149-224)

    This chapter is divided into five sections, each of which analyses the historical role of copper in the insignia and in the history of the Bakongo. The first section, ‘Material Properties of the Insignia,’ describes the condition of the insignia when they were discovered in the Musée de l’Homme and discusses the scientific analyses of the copper used to make the insignia. The data are also placed within the broader context of copper objects elsewhere in Africa. The second section, ‘Manufacture of the Insignia,’ examines the techniques used to create the insignia. Comparisons are made with metalworking techniques used in...

  12. 6 Conclusions
    (pp. 225-234)

    Zdenka Volavka did not live long enough to write a concluding chapter. One was planned, according to her preliminary outlines, but no early draft for that chapter was found among her papers. The task of writing the conclusions of someone else’s research work is not an easy one, but it is especially necessary here because of the unusual organizational structure of this book, and its serious contributions to several different areas of Africanist scholarship. What I shall provide here are some final summary statements outlining and explaining the conceptualization, presentation, and major findings of Dr Volavka’s research project as I...


    • APPENDIX I Catalogue and Comparative Analysis
      (pp. 235-254)
    • APPENDIX II Documentation of the Identified Inventory of the Lusunsi Shrine
      (pp. 255-256)
    • APPENDIX III Scientific Analyses
      (pp. 257-288)
    • APPENDIX IV Historical Documents
      (pp. 289-297)
    • APPENDIX V Historical Tables and Charts
      (pp. 298-310)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 311-366)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 367-386)
  16. Index
    (pp. 387-411)